The Belgian monarch had a dramatic evening as he drove through his nation’s capital. King Philippe’s car, a black Mercedes with the famous royal number plate 1, drove straight into a violent demonstration and was briefly trapped in a crowd as young people took to the streets against the Belgian police. The Belgian press published a photograph showing the car in the middle of the protests which took place on January 13th 2021.
The protesters’ aggression was directed at the Belgian police. It is uncertain whether the king’s car was driving alone or whether it was escorted by other cars from the royal police protection. Witnesses at the scene were unsure whether there were very many who actually knew that it was the nation’s monarch who was sitting in the car. After a short pause inside the demonstration, the car drove away quickly. Those inside the vehicle weren’t hurt.
A group of about 500 demonstrators had begun what was intended as a peaceful demonstration on Wednesday outside the police station on Rue de Brabant in Brussels. They were gathering to show their anger over the death of 23 year old immigrant, Ibrahima Barrie, who died Saturday one hour after he was arrested by the Belgian police. It is understood that Mr Barrie had a heart attack.
Protesters shouted: “Black Lives Matter,” and “Murderers!,” and demanded authorities answer questions related to his death. A group of around 100 protesters broke off and started to disperse towards a tunnel leading to Place du Nord with other demonstrators trying to stop them. Smoke bombs were let off and missiles were thrown. As the protest continued, officers deployed water cannons to disperse the crowd as some demonstrators broke the windows of police cars. Several protesters were injured in clashes with police.
This is not the first time a royal has ended up in the middle of a protest by a mistake. A few years ago in 2010, Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla ended up in the middle of a protest in London. Then the protest was about increased student fees. Protesters cracked windows and threw paint on the royal Rolls-Royce after it became separated from its police escort and was surrounded by demonstrators. Fortunately, things went a little calmer for the Belgian king last night.