Amid a strong police presence, there have been dozens of arrests at a banned September 11 rally in Brussels. Activists from several countries gathered near EU headquarters, protesting at what they say is the “Islamisation of Europe.” Far-right groups have voiced support for the cause but organisers deny they are racist. Anders Gravers, the founder of the Stop the Islamisation of Denmark party, asked: “Why has a demonstration – a peaceful demonstration like ours – been such a big issue?”
Participants say they want to stop Islam becoming a “dominant political force in Europe.” Among those present was Frank Vanhecke who heads Vlaams Belang, a far-right Flemish nationalist party in Belgium. “We agree with the objectives of this demonstration,” he said. “We fear the rise of Islam on our continent.”
But the party boss was taken to a police van by anti-riot officers. Another top Vlaams Belang official was also detained. Critics of the demonstration say organisers had an anti-immigrant and anti-Islam agenda. But the EU’s Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini has said he believed the rally should be allowed to go ahead – in the name of freedom of expression.