Four people, including two minors, remained in custody in Belgium on Thursday after violent demonstrations held the day before over the death of a young black man in police custody.
Three of the individuals were being held on suspicion of arson, while the fourth has been accused of rebellion. Police detained a total of 116 people at Wednesday’s protest in Brussels, which grew violent after beginning as a largely peaceful movement. According to a police statement, several people, including police officers, were injured in clashes as between 50 and 100 people threw projectiles at the authorities, set fires, and damaged police vehicles, the car of Belgian King Philip was briefly blocked in the midst of the incidents, the royal palace said.
Protests began after a 23-year-old man of Guinean origin, identified as I.B., died on Saturday. He passed away in a Brussels hospital shortly after collapsing in a police station in the Belgian capital where he had been taken following an arrest. According to the public prosecutor’s office, the young man had been arrested after he tried to flee police who were inspecting the city centre for social gatherings, which are banned under COVID-19 restrictions. Belgian prosecutors have requested that an investigative judge probes for “involuntary manslaughter for lack of foresight or precaution”. Belgium’s Comite P, an independent body overseeing police services, is also investigating.
Belgian Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden condemned Wednesday’s riots as “unacceptable”, adding that it undermined appeals for calm from the young man’s family. The interior minister assured that video surveillance footage seized at the police station would shed light on the circumstances of the man’s death. “Disciplinary measures could be taken” against the police officers involved, Verlinden added. “I understand the pain and sorrow when losing a loved one and I understand that these people are asking many questions,” the Interior Minister said on Facebook. “But I will never accept that these feelings can be misused by others.”