The world of culture in the streets to protest against an « unjust closure »


The measure is struggling to pass, while the figures for the coronavirus epidemic are improving in the flat country. This Sunday, theaters, cinemas and other places of Belgian culture must close, following a decree to fight against the spread of the Omicron variant. Several thousand people demonstrated this Sunday in Brussels to protest against these closures. “No to this stupid decree! « Unlike finance, culture enriches us », « No culture, no future » proclaimed signs in the rally.

Some demonstrators wore carnival masks, in a good-natured atmosphere where French and Dutch speakers mingled. The police, in a provisional count, counted around a thousand people at 2 p.m. (1 p.m. GMT) at the start of the rally, not far from the Place Royale, in the museum district of the Belgian capital. But despite the light rain, the crowd was more and more compact by the beginning of the afternoon.

A decision criticized by health experts

Perched on a platform, officials of major Brussels cultural institutions, such as the Royal Flemish Theater (KVS) and the La Monnaie opera house, called on politicians to “reconsider” the decision to close the theaters. The 4th wave of the pandemic continues to ebb in Belgium, the absolute numbers of infections have been decreasing for three weeks, and the experts who advise the government had not recommended at this stage a new turn of the screw for culture despite the tense situation in the hospital.

Speaking of « inconsistency » or even « aberration », several health experts have publicly denounced this decision, considered all the more surprising as cafes and restaurants can remain open throughout the country under certain conditions. « Once again we are deepening inequalities and access to culture, » denounced Virginie Cordier, director of the cultural center La Vènerie, in the Brussels municipality of Watermael-Boitsfort.

Mental health at the heart of the debate

Others spoke of the importance of keeping cinemas and theaters open « for the mental health » of a population affected by nearly two years of a pandemic. “I prefer to feed on culture than to eat at the restaurant. This closure is unfair, ”says Catherine, a French teacher in her fifties. Some theaters and many cinemas, especially in Brussels, Namur and Liège, have decided to defy the ban by remaining open on Sunday.

Another protest demonstration took place in Liège on Sunday, with several hundred people, according to the Belga news agency. In announcing the new restrictions on Wednesday, the government said it did not plan to re-assess the situation until early January. No precise date has been given.

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