EXCLUSIVE: Brussels Riots Victims Reveal How City is Turning Into Battlefield
The Belgian capital was hit by violence again on Saturday as masked hooligans damaged police cars and looted shops in central Brussels. It was the third major case of unrest in the city since early November, when celebrations over Morocco's victory in a football game turned violent. Belgian nationalist politicians blame the authorities for what's happening, while victims of looting criticize the city's police for lack of action.
©AP Photo/Olivier Matthys/Belgian police march against demonstrators during unrest in Brussels on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017
To an outsider, Brussels looks like a heavily guarded city. The center of the Belgian capital is being patrolled by armed soldiers, policemen on bikes, in cars and on foot.

But neither the soldiers, who are in the city to prevent terrorist attacks, nor the policemen, who rarely go on patrol in large groups, were able to save the European capital from recent riots, when angry mobs were damaging cars and breaking into stores.
©Sputnik/Denis Bolotsky/Brussels
On November 11, the Moroccan national football team qualified for next year's World Cup, winning 2-0 over Ivory Coast. Brussel has a large Moroccan community, and some of the young football fans celebrated the victory of their favorite team by attacking police officers and robbing stores.

For almost an hour the neighborhood close to the Avenue of Stalingrad was looking almost like the real Stalingrad battlefield.

Frieda de Kerf owns a furniture store, which was ravaged by the angry mob. Some of the merchandise was destroyed; many items were stolen.

"The people who live upstairs called the police," says Frida. "They called several times, saying that there are [looters] in the store, and during 40-45 minutes when they remained here, the police didn't come. So the people upstairs were really afraid."
A man named Ramzi runs a small computer shop across the street from Frida's store. His window was also broken by the attackers. He blames law enforcement agencies for lack of action.

Ramzi's friends, who walked into the store during the interview, but didn't want to go on record, said that it seemed as if the police were almost purposely pushing the angry mob away from the Brussels Stock exchange, where the riots broke out, towards the Avenue of Stalingrad neighborhood, with its many shops owned by Moroccans.
©Sputnik/Denis Bolotsky/Brussels
"I was in the store when they started throwing stones at the window. I called the police, but nobody came here for an hour", Ramzi said.
Even though most of Brussels' politicians expressed concern over the recent unrest, they do not agree on the causes of the riots.
©AP Photo/Olivier Matthys/A car damaged by unrest in Brussels on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017
The Flemish Christian Democrats (CD&V) called for more tolerance and launched an anti-racism campaign.
"We are confronting racism not only with prevention and repression. But also with humor," says Brussels city secretary Bianca Debaets, a CD&V member, who spearheaded the campaign.
Nationalist parties such as Flemish Interest, however, seem to be less amused, placing the blame for the riots on the authorities' failed multiculturalist policies.
Following the second wave of unrest on November 15, when fans of the rapper named "Vargasss 92" clashed with the capital's police, the chairman of Flemish Interest, Tom van Grieken, posted the pictures of the aftermath on Facebook, saying "Riots in Brussels again. Who is actually the boss here?"
©Sputnik/Denis Bolotsky/Brussels
The party's representative in the Brussels Parliament, Dominiek Lootens, told Sputnik that only a zero-tolerance policy towards violence and provocations together with reform of police zones in the capital could fix the situation. As for the bigger picture, Lootens is certain that there is an important issue of cultural identity that is being overlooked by the authorities.

"I think they don't understand what's going on. Some of the politicians of the left-wing say that there is no such things as an identity, there is only one human race, and so on. But, on the contrary, and this is proven now, there is certainly an identity. When Morocco has a football game the Moroccans are there, and they are not there as Belgian citizens, they are there to defend their identity of Morocco. You have the same thing with Turkish people, we have the same with African people. That means we have a multicultural city now, with this kind of "time bomb" because all of those different groups of people, all of those different identities are in conflict with one another."
While the police are still looking for suspects concerning the November 11 and November 15 riots, new clashes occur in Brussels almost every week. On Saturday more than 70 youths were arrested for smashing shop windows and police cars after an anti-slavery rally in the capital's center.

Brussels police did not respond to Sputnik's request for interview.
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