Brussels Police Shut Down Far-Right Conference, Sparking Debate Over Free Speech

Belgian police shut down a far-right conference in Brussels, sparking a debate over free speech and the role of authorities ahead of key European elections in 2024.

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Dil Bar Irshad
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Brussels Police Shut Down Far-Right Conference, Sparking Debate Over Free Speech

Brussels Police Shut Down Far-Right Conference, Sparking Debate Over Free Speech

Belgian police shut down a far-right conference ahead of elections in Brussels on Tuesday, citing concerns about public order. The annual National Conservative conference, organized by the U.S.-based Edmund Burke Foundation, was held ahead of Europe-wide elections in June 2024. Mainstream parties fear that disenchanted voters might turn to the far-right attendees at the conference.

British and Belgian leaders expressed concern about the shutdown, with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak calling it "extremely disturbing" and a violation of free speech. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo defended the shutdown, stating that banning political meetings is unconstitutional . The conference was forced to move venues multiple times due to anti-fascist protests, and was eventually shut down by police barring attendees from re-entering the venue.

Speakers at the conference criticized the EU, climate policy, and "woke indoctrination," with some calling for a return to traditional values. Former British Home Secretary Suella Braverman accused the authorities in Brussels of trying to undermine and denigrate free speech. Despite the shutdown, the organizers vowed to find another venue for the second day of the conference, which was scheduled to feature a speech by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Why this matters: The shutdown of the National Conservative conference in Brussels highlights the ongoing debate over the limits of free speech and the role of authorities in regulating political events. It also highlights the growing tensions between far-right nationalist movements and mainstream parties ahead of key European elections in 2024.

Nigel Farage, a keynote speaker at the conference, criticized the shutdown as an example of "cancel culture" and compared it to "Soviet communism." Conference organizer Yoram Hazony accused the mayor of trying to stop the conference as a pre-election stunt, stating that the idea of national conservatism is so "frightening" to their adversaries that they cannot allow it to be spoken. Despite the legal and logistical challenges, the conference continued with disruptions as organizers worked to secure an alternative venue.

Key Takeaways

  • Belgian police shut down a far-right conference in Brussels, citing public order concerns.
  • British and Belgian leaders debated the shutdown, with Belgium defending it as unconstitutional.
  • Speakers criticized the EU, climate policy, and "woke indoctrination," calling for traditional values.
  • The conference was forced to move venues due to protests and was eventually shut down by police.
  • The shutdown highlights tensions between far-right movements and mainstream parties ahead of 2024 elections.