"The self-employed organization Unizo of Antwerp and political party Lijst Dedecker are asking to ban further anti-Israel protests, following the recent clashes between police and demonstrators in the city.
Unizo Antwerp reacted indignantly to the riots of last Wednesday, after a protest action of the Arab European League in Borgerhout.
The shopkeepers want regulations to limit or even ban demonstrations in shopping streets. According to Unizo Antwerp the demonstrations damage the image of Antwerp as a shopping city and leads to investors holding back. This week starts off the most important sales period of the city, with special bargains for the next month.
The organization is also asking for extra vigilance in the affected shopping streets around the Turnhoutsebaan and in the diamond sector.
"Antwerp entrepreneurs and citizens are not responsible for the problems in the Middle East. Damaging properties and shops is not a solution for the conflict," emphasizes the organization. "We don't want to limit the right to free speech, but ask for respect for the right to do business."
The organization says that they had informed the mayor in advance of their anxiety but that he told them everything was under control. They are therefore extremely upset about the derailment of the demonstration Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Lijst Dedecker (LDD) wants to ban today's planned demonstration, a silent march of women's organizations. On Saturday police stopped an illegal protest in the Groenplaats square. 93 people were arrested, 60 of them minors, the youngest of which was 11. They were apparently called to demonstrate by SMS. Some of the Muslim youth had forbidden weapons such as Molotov cocktails, sticks and pepper sprays.
Police spread out in the area and stopped everyperson on their way to the square. If they said they were on their way to the demonstration or were wearing Palestinian shawls and shouting slogans, they were asked to leave. If they did not do so, they were arrested (administratively detained).
LDD says that "the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is being abused in order to create conflicts in Antwerp and to set population groups against each other.
"Flemish parliament member Jurgen Verstrepen says that "as long as nobody can convince me that there's no danger during the sales period, Patrick Janssens (Antwerp Socialist Mayor) must take responsibility."
Verstrepent thinks it's hallucinatory that the Antwerp police needs to arrest immigrants possessing Molotov cocktails on the most important sales day of the year. "Imagine that such 'rifraf' would take actions in the shopping masses. The results would be disastrous," says Verstrepen. The course of today's women's march was changed so as not to go through the shopping district."