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Brussels police attempt to shut down conservative conference

Authorities said the event attended by Viktor Orban and Nigel Farage presented a “possibility of disorder”

Belgian police barricaded the entrance to a conference of national conservatives in the capital of the EU for several hours, in what participants denounced as censorship and political repression.

The event, dubbed NatCon, drew populists from both Europe and the US to Claridge, a venue in central Brussels. As Brexit architect Nigel Farage spoke on Tuesday, police blocked the entrance and prevented keynote speaker Eric Zemmour – a former French presidential candidate – from entering. 

“I knew I wouldn’t be welcome back in Brussels,” Farage, a former MEP, joked on stage, calling the attempt to cancel the event “simply monstrous.”

“In the past, Belgium welcomed Victor Hugo in exile. From now on, this country lives between a caliphate and a dictatorship,” Zemmour said on X (formerly Twitter).

Two other venues had previously backed out on hosting NatCon, under pressure from the socialist and liberal mayors of Brussels and nearby Etterbeek, according to Politico EU. The mayor of Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, Emir Kir, told the outlet by email he would “immediately” ban the event when informed it was being held in his jurisdiction.

A Politico reporter on the scene said the police invoked the “possibility of public disorder” to attempt to shut down the conference, arguing that they couldn’t guarantee security in case of a counter-protest.

English translation of the Brussels mayor’s order deploying police and banning entrance to the NatCon conference here — pic.twitter.com/4gdHvtWoPI

— Paul Coleman (@Paul_B_Coleman) April 16, 2024

“The conference is extremely peaceful. There is absolutely no public disturbance. Guests, including esteemed scholars and elected leaders, are enjoying hearing civilized discussion,” the NatCon organizers tweeted in response.

The standoff continued for most of the day. In a “compromise” the Claridge owner reached with Kir, the police allowed the event to continue but blocked new arrivals from entering the venue – including Zemmour and French MEP Patricia Chagnon.

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“The last time they wanted to silence me with the police was when the Communists set them on me in ‘88. We didn’t give up then and we will not give up this time either!” said Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is scheduled to speak on Wednesday.

Giorgia Meloni, the prime minister of Italy and leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Party, denounced the police blockade as “hateful oppression of freedom of expression taking place in Brussels.”

“If only the globalists in Brussels put as much energy into securing our borders as they did in trying to gag conservatives, maybe our continent would be in a healthier state,” said former UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who managed to speak at the event.

Belgian PM Alexander De Croo also chimed in, calling the police action “unacceptable.”

“Municipal autonomy is a cornerstone of our democracy but can never overrule the Belgian constitution guaranteeing the freedom of speech and peaceful assembly since 1830. Banning political meetings is unconstitutional. Full stop,” he said.

Today, we overcame attempts by Brussels authorities to silence us and had a wonderful Day One of NatCon Brussels 2. See you again tomorrow! pic.twitter.com/NO9I3CbnUl

— National Conservatism (@NatConTalk) April 16, 2024

NatCon’s principal organizer is the Edmund Burke Foundation, run by Israeli-American philosopher Yoram Hazony. The event comes ahead of the European Parliament elections in June, with polls showing rising support for “nationalist” parties over the establishment EPP and Socialist-Democrat blocs.

 

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