Thousands attend Brusselsprotest against Bush visit
22 February 2005
BRUSSELS – An alliance of 88 environmental, human rights and peace groups have gathered outside the US embassy in Brussels to protest the visit of George W. Bush.
The biggest single protest took place on Monday afternoon and was organised by the ‘Stop Bush’ consortium.
According to the organisers 3,500 people took part, other observers put the figure at nearer 2,000.
The protesters were matched by police numbers as the Belgian force launched a major security operation.
A total of 2,500 officers were deployed, 1,000 more than usually on the streets for a Brussels summit of EU leaders.
Stony-faced riot police and double-edged barbed wire fences kept protesters well apart from the doors of the US embassy.
But what the demonstrators lacked in numbers, they made up for in enthusiasm and noise.
An eclectic mix of dreadlocked anti-globalisation marchers, middle class grandmothers, teenagers and babies in prams joined the crowd protesting every conceivable grievance against the US administration.
Banners lambasted Washington for human rights abuses, bombings, GMOs and the
failure to tackle climate change.
Philippe Hensmans, from Amnesty International, said that America had abused civil liberties since the September 11 terrorist attacks, especially in the Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib camps.
“If George W. Bush wants to talk to the EU, very good. But the Europeans must remind him that he cannot breach fundamental rights,” he said.
The demonstrators were set to move their protest on Tuesday to the EU institutions where Bush will be meeting the leaders of the European Commission and 25 member states.
Bush spent Tuesday morning at NATO where he sought to heal over the damaging rifts creating within the Alliance over the Iraq war.
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer opened the meeting with a pledge from all 26 allied members to contribute in some form to the training of police officers in Iraq.
Earlier on Tuesday Bush had shared breakfast with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and met with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko.
Blair said the recent elections in Iraq had opened up a “clear way” for the future.
“Whatever our differences were on Iraq, I think that we now have a solid base to move forward in a unified way,” he told reporters.
But Bush has chosen to focus much of his European tour to the EU leaders he had the sharpest disagreements with in the recent past.
He invited French President Jacques Chirac to the US embassy on Monday evening in a symbolic gesture towards renewing ties between France and America.
His efforts were rewarded by support from the French leader for a US call on Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon.
[Copyright Expatica 2005]
Subject: Belgian news