Thousands of people have rallied in Brussels for a “march against hate” in the wake of the suicide bombings in the city in March, which saw 32 people killed. The event took place three weeks after its original date.
Around 6,500 people took part in the march across Brussels, according to police figures. The march also went by the city’s Molenbeek neighborhood, where some of the perpetrators involved in the Paris and Brussels attacks are believed to have hidden.
Suspects in the attacks on the city’s Zaventem airport and a subway train in the city’s EU quarter on March 22 and the Paris massacre on November 13, 2015, were often affiliated with the neighborhood.
There were no reports of incidents during the march, which was also attended by representatives of various faiths. A Muslim group carried a placard reading, “Love is my religion and my faith.” Marchers were urged, however, not to wear any backpacks, as one of the Brussels bombers had detonated an explosives-filled backpack.
The rally was originally scheduled to take place on March 27, but was canceled over security fears at the time. Many people attended an impromptu vigil on the city’s Place de la Bourse instead that day.
Testing Belgians’ faith
Organized by more than 100 civil groups and associations, the “march against terror and hatred” had hoped for a turnout of up to 15,000. Hassan Bousetta, a local councilor in Belgium’s eastern city of Liege, helped organize the march. He told the AFP news agency that “all citizens should stand up to express their disgust and solidarity” in the face of the “cowardly” attacks.
“It is a moment of reflection, a message of compassion for the victims and a moment when citizens come together,” he said.
The march took place amid the fallout over controversial statements made by Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon. Jambon, who had already been criticized for his handling of security in the country, claimed that a “significant section of the Muslim population danced” when the Brussels attacks took place.
“This is the real problem. Terrorists we can pick up, remove from society. But they are just a boil,” he said. “Underneath is a cancer that is much more difficult to treat. We can do it, but it won’t be overnight.”