The decision to ban the march was taken when it was revealed that the organisers include a number of extreme right-wing groups, including the Flemish ultra-nationalist Schild en Vriend, a group of football hooligans calling itself the Football Lads Association and the right-wing Flemish Catholic students’ association. Vervoort’s ban was backed by Philippe Close, mayor of Brussels-City commune.
Opponents of the pact claim it will institute a policy of open borders allowing migrants from the developing world to flood into western countries. Supporters argue the pact is non-binding on signatory nations.
“Next Sunday we will demonstrate against the Migration Pact of Marrakesh, even if there has been a ban pronounced by socialists Philippe Close and Rudi Vervoort,” said Filip Brusselmans, president of the Catholic students’ association KVHV in Antwerp and one of the organisers. “We are basing our action of the right to assembly and the right to freedom of expression,” he said, and stressed that the march would be peaceful. “We are not looking for a confrontation with the police.”
Meanwhile the organisers of a counter-demonstration, a “march for Marrakesh,” have called on the people of Brussels to organise a safe place for migrants living on the streets of Brussels during the right-wing march, which they claim is likely to turn to violence.
“This is not a gathering of right-wing groups,” said Axel Farkas of the Movement for an Anti-capitalist Project (SAP), which is organising the counter-demonstration. “They intend to attack the transmigrants in the Maximilian Park. They have announced it on their Facebook pages. That is why we are asking for people to be on their guard.”
Philippe Close has declined to specify what police presence there will be, but warned that marchers would be breaking the law by taking part in the demonstration, and could be arrested for public order offences. Sven Gatz, minister in the Flemish government for Brussels, supported the decision to ban the march, and pointed out that Brussels is an open city where demonstrations for or against one cause or another take place on average twice a day throughout the year.
“You can’t just turn up a few days in advance and ask to come and demonstrate,” he told the VRT. “Sometimes people apply weeks or even months in advance, and that’s possible. But now, an extra demonstration in the Christmas period, and on top of that one with a bad smell hanging around it, I find that dangerous. Brussels is not some playground where anyone can come in unannounced and organise a demonstration.”