The Brussels Public Prosecutor’s Office said on Wednesday that it has opened an investigation into the “manslaughter” after a 23-year-old black man lost consciousness at a police station shortly after his arrest. He later died in hospital.
Hundreds of protesters gathered in Lidets Square in central Brussels. A video recording from the scene showed clashes as protesters threw stones and projectiles, while police deployed water cannons.
Some demonstrators carried placards titled “Black lives matter” and shouted “We want the truth.”
The palace told CNN that the car of the Belgian King Philip was “stuck for a while” nearby, and the car was hit by several projectiles thrown at the police officers who were surrounding the king’s motorcade.
They said the king himself was not the target and “his security was not in danger.”
Death in police custody
The death that led to Wednesday’s protests occurred on Saturday, after police “examined” a group of people who had gathered despite coronavirus measures limiting public gatherings, a statement issued by the Attorney General’s office said.
According to the prosecutor’s statement, a man – identified by the lawyer representing his family as Ibrahima B – “ran away on foot and was interrogated by the police.”
“When he arrived at the police station, (B) lost consciousness and the police officers present called the emergency services. An ambulance and an emergency team arrived at the scene and (B) was transferred to the hospital. He died in the hospital at 8:22 pm,” the statement added.
Speaking at a demonstration protesting his death on Wednesday, the family’s lawyer Alexis Dsouave told Belgian television, “I know one thing – if he had been my son, who is white and the same age, that would not have happened.”
“The family has been informed that their son has a heart defect,” Dasuef told CNN, but this “would not be the only cause of death.”
The lawyer added that the toxicology tests “show traces of drugs,” but “they will not explain the death.”
In response to the protests, Federal Police Commissioner General Mark de Mesmaker said Thursday, “We can understand that emotions are escalating … but the way in which this was done is totally unacceptable.”
He accused the protesters of “sabotage” and said that five police officers were injured in the unrest.
“We cannot in any way accept what happened today … The rioters will not go unpunished,” Belgian Minister of Justice Vincent van Quickenborn said on Wednesday.