A small chronology of the riots spreading the Belgian prisons, where guards are on strike for more than two weeks now…
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 cancelled. 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 intervenes 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 invades 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, tens of persons 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 places. 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 teared 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 intervenes with huge forces, but prisoners fight back for hours during the night. Only in the early morning, around 6 ‘o clock, the police manages 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 troubles 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 continue also 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 also the next day and night. A short video is publishing online.
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 of 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 intervenes 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.
Updates in French: La Cavale