Thousands of protesters descended upon EU district in Brussels to show solidarity with Palestinians as Israel's military crackdown in the occupied territories raged into its second week.
The largely peaceful demonstration in Brussels, calling for an immediate Israeli withdrawal from the territories and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, drew from 15,000 to 25,000 participants, depending on who was doing the estimating – police or organisers.
“For the first time, we are seeing major European public support for the Palestinians,” said Rahib Hijazi, a Belgo-Palestinian activist at the march, referring to the large turn out of a broad spectrum of Belgo-Arab and Belgian NGOs, Belgian political parties, as well as European charities, such as Oxfam, 11.11.11 and Pax Christi.
The demonstrators, including parades of singing women and children from the Moroccan community in Brussels, marched from the area around the Gare du Nord, along Arts-Loi, stopping off at the US Embassy and ended up at a rally on Place du Luxembourg in front of the European Parliament.
A small group of angry Arab youths defied organisers' appeals to move on and pitched themselves outside the US embassy, which had been cordoned off by riot police, chanting “Bush, Sharon, assassins”. They burned Israeli and US flags and threw rocks at the building.
Organisers recruited 300 community volunteers to keep order. Police said they were largely satisfied with the demonstration, during which they made no arrests, although six were made for minor offences afterwards.
This article appeared in the 11 April 2002 issue of European Voice.