On Monday 25th of April, the prison guards of all prisons in the French speaking parts of Belgium went on strike, in total 21 prisons. The prisoners are confined in their cells. All activities, like the walk, shower, visit, legal counsel, are canceled. The police took over the control of the prisons to assure security.
After one week of guards on strike, and with conditions rapidly deteriorating inside, incidents start to spread in many prisons. In some prisons, the situation could be called catastrophic. Prisoners only receive food once a day, didn’t go out of their cells in more than ten days, hygienic conditions are terrible with infections and diseases spreading.
May 3. In the prison of Tournai, tensions rise and prisoners start to destroy cells.
May 3, during the night. Prisoners of Huy burned mattresses and destroyed some cells. Federal police intervene in the prison to restore order.
May 4. Prisoners of Huy light fires all over the prison, break the doors of their cells, destroy parts of the prison infrastructure and flood a whole section of the prison. Federal police invade the prison during the night.
May 4. Prisoners of Nivelles destroy cells and throw burning objects out of the cells. More than 40 prisoners of Nivelles go on collective hunger strike.
May 4, during the night. Prisoners in Arlon light fires. The firemen, protected by Federal Police, have to intervene two times during the night.
May 5. Prisoners in Jamioulx start to riot. They break down cells, attack some security personnel still working the prison and light fires. Outside of the prison, dozens of people gather in solidarity with the prisoners.
May 7. In the prison of Merksplas (in the Flemish speaking part of Belgium, where guards are not on strike), a huge revolt takes place. 200 prisoners refuse to go back to their cells after the walk and rise up. They smash everything they can, some guards are locked in by the fighting prisoners. Walls are torn down, fences destroyed, infrastructure broken, about 150 cells are totally destroyed. Important fires are lit at several points of the prison. One prisoner manages to escape in the chaos, but is arrested a bit later in the surroundings of the prison. Police intervene with huge forces, but prisoners fight back for hours during the night. Only in the early morning, around 6 ‘o clock, the police manage to break the uprising. More than 100 prisoners are transferred to other prisons. Testimonies speak of the largest uprising in a Belgian prison.
May 8, during the night. Prisoners who were transferred from the partly destroyed prison of Merksplas, start to make trouble in the prison of Antwerp.
May 8. In the prison of Lantin, prisoners break open their cells and start to destroy several wings. Fires are lit. Troubles also continue the days after
May 8. In the prison of Andenne, chaos spreads with prisoners breaking out of their cells, destroying what they can and lighting fires, screaming “Freedom, freedom!”. The troubles continue the next day and night.
May 8. In the prison of Ittre, prisoners got an exceptional walk but refused to go back to their cells after and fought with some guards. Inside the prison blocks, prison infrastructure gets destroyed by rioting prisoners.
May 9. In the newly built prison of Leuze, prisoners who got an exceptional walk refuse to go back and stay out the whole night. Police then intervene in the morning to drive them back to their cells.
May 9. The government decides to deploy the army in the prisons. Soldiers, armed with pepper spray and sticks, are deployed in the prisons of Brussels (Forest and Saint-Gilles) and in the prison of Lantin. The prison guards decide to continue their strike. News from inside the walls is getting more and more rare with the State intervening now to block off any communication with the outside.
Some more material:
Small video sent by a prisoner from Andenne:
Picture of the smoking prison of Merksplas during the nightly uprising : http://www.lacavale.be/spip.php?article323
A poster pasted in the streets of Brussels
“Prisons in revolt, neighbourhoods under pressure, exploited in anger… LET’S ATTACK ON ALL FRONTS.
Now is the time to act. The prisons are about to explode, the neighbourhoods infested by military and police are growling, the anger of the exploited threatens to launch a new assault against this government.
Now is the time to act. Express your solidarity with the prisoners in revolt. Give body and spirit to your anger. Break the daily rhythm of resignation. Launch a sublime defiance in the face of power: the defiance of freedom and solidarity.”
Military entering the prison of Saint-Gilles (Brussels):