Tomorrow is the 26th of November once again, and on that date 5 years ago Mohammed Achrak ( the brother of Satif a friend of mine of whom I was the footbal trainer for years) was murdered by a racist Belgian and riots exploded in the city of Antwerp. That day I came to the streets with several AEL activists to try and canalise what was already starting as small rioting into a positive and dignified protest. Arriving at the scene of the riots, I realised that the police force was blocking people in a cordon and that in that cordon provocations, jokes and shared laughs between the police and Vlaams Blok militants were very present. Militants like Rob Vereyken who are known as provocateurs and extremists were already at the scene.
We tried to negotiate a solution and proposed to lead the crowd, that was anything but explosive, into a nearby mosque, this initiative was, however, stalled by hours of waiting. When we asked again, we were attacked with pepper spray in an orchestrated move to clearly provoke a violent reaction from our side.
That violent reaction did not come, and all what came was that verbal confrontation that was aired time after time on Belgian TV between me and the police chief Luc Lamine, in which I tell him that: ” we will hold a demonstration of 10 000 people in Antwerp without a permit and then you will laugh”. Luc Lamine was laughing to my face just after I regained my senses from the full load of pepper spray I received, and my reaction to him was, to say the least controlled, considering the circumstances. After all the constitution gives us the right to demonstrate without a permission, and if he likes laughing that much even when a person was shot and people are saddened and angry about it, he can then do that at any occasion as far as I am concerned.
Eventually, the police released the crowds and I lead them to a mosque where i called for calm and asked everybody to go home and pray and wait for the investigation. waiting for the investigation, however, is not what the Mayor of Antwerp did, she interrupted her birthday party that evening, to tell us through the media, that the murder was not racist and that AEL and Abou Jahjah seem to be orchestrating the riots.
Astonishing news, but that opinion was echoed in the Belgian media and in the public debate…. No one spoke about the murder and what it means to be shot dead because of wearing Islamic clothing, the problem was the AEL and how some people reacted to that murder. Later on, the prime minister of Belgium practically decreed my arrest in parliament in a disgusting exhibition of abuse of power, hysterical politics and racism.
I was arrested and thrown into Jail, practically because I had helped that night to keep things under control and canalise things. The establishment wanted to reckon with me and the AEL because of our outspoken positions on the Integration issue (our anti racism, assertivity in the debate and mainly our civil patrols that we organised to keep an eye on police behaviour, these patrols shook Belgium in the weeks before the murder of Achrak and made first page headlines in Belgium and beyond. We were accused of illegal practices but a Judge last year closed that chapter for good stating in his verdict that there was nothing illegal about the patrols) and the Palestinian cause ( mainly the Sharon case and the embarrassment it brought to the racist state of Israel and the pressure that was put on Belgium to modify its genocide law).
In the mean time things became clearer, we know that the police declaration against me were rigged and manipulated, we know that Luc Lamine himself admitted in press interviews that my role that evening was constructive and reasonable. We even know that he insisted to be present during the search of my apartment because he was suspecting other colleagues of his of having the intention to plant evidence in order to convict me. Yes, it is that kind of story….
Next Friday this case will be open, and we expect it to be a long fight, and I will be covering it on this blog and writing regular comments on it. This is a political trial, and nothing else. I hope that the judge will see this and dismiss the case of the prosecution as unfounded and ridiculous, but knowing Belgium and the kind of political cabal that is classical in that country, I have my doubts.
In the middle of all this, 26th of November will always be the day that Mohammed Achrak was shot dead, my thoughts will go tomorrow to his brother Satif and his family.