BRUSSELS — Hundreds of peace activists on Sunday tried in vain to break into the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in Brussels, with 483 of them arrested by police.
The demonstration, organised by the Belgian association Action for Peace two months before a NATO summit in Chicago, was called to protest the alliance’s intervention in Afghanistan and Libya, and nuclear arming.
“No demonstrator was able to enter NATO headquarters,” spokesman for Brussels police, Christian De Coninck, told AFP. “We detained 483 people for questioning and all of them should be free in the evening.”
De Coninck said no one was hurt and no damage was reported.
Demonstrators crossed fields and sought to climb over fences leading to the NATO compound, but were stopped by a large police presence, some on horseback, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.
“We neither want the anti-missile shield, nor intervention by NATO in Libya or Afghanistan, nor nuclear bombs that are illegal in our country,” said Benoit Calvi, a spokesman for Action for Peace.
Demonstrators shouted “No more NATO”, “We want peace now” and “NATO Game Over”.
“A military alliance that intervenes all over the world and has nuclear weapons is a threat to world peace,” said Action for Peace.
Some “500 to 600 policemen” were deployed to counter the demonstration, a policeman said.
Demonstrators, most of them in their twenties, were from Belgium but also arrived from Britain, Finland, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, and Turkey.
Those stopped by the police were made to sit in lines with their hands tied behind their back.
In March 2008, about 1,000 peace activists had mounted a similar operation to mark the fifth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq. At the time police detained 450 people.
A year later, another attempt to storm NATO headquarters on the 60th anniversary of the military alliance ended with the arrest of 442 people.
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Photo AFP, John Thys