Serious unrest during a protest on 4 December 2021
QUESTION POSED BY Claudine KONSBRUCK
Serious unrest broke out on Saturday, 4 December, during a protest against the new COVID-19 restrictions introduced by the Government. Calls to protest had been shared on social media in the run-up to this event. The protesters gathered at the Glacis and made their way towards the city centre before continuing on to the Prime Minister's home in Bonnevoie.
Was the protest authorised? Who organised it? Many of the protesters' actions reported by the media likely constituted criminal offences. Has the matter been referred to the Public Prosecutor's Office? What steps can the City take to prevent, or even provide a framework for, these kinds of protests? How does the City plan to prevent this kind of thing from happening again?
RESPONSE PROVIDED BY Mayor Lydie POLFER
The right to protest is enshrined in the Constitution. However, protests must be supervised by law enforcement officers, namely the Grand-Ducal Police. I was at City Hall on Saturday, 4 December, and watched as a growing crowd made its way along Rue Notre-Dame towards the Grand-Ducal Palace and the Chamber of Deputies. I immediately contacted the organisers of the Christmas markets in Place d'Armes and Place de la Constitution so that the merchants could close their chalets. I then went to Place d'Armes to alert the people carrying out the CovidCheck at the entrance to the Christmas market and asked them not to deny the protesters access in order to prevent the situation from escalating.
A merchant then asked me to leave the premises as the situation was at risk of becoming dangerous. I proceeded to the first floor of the Cercle Municipal to film the scene unfolding below. What happened next was terrifying. The angry crowd flooded into the Christmas market – the chalets were fortunately closed at that point – and the protesters stayed there for approximately 20 minutes before leaving, accompanied by the Grand-Ducal Police. The protesters then made their way towards Boulevard Royal and Luxembourg Central Station.
In my long political career, I had never felt so tense as I did in that moment. The slightest provocation could have had dire consequences. Thankfully, the worst was avoided; no one was injured and material damage was minimal.
I am very grateful that all political parties have condemned the unrest we saw at that protest. Attacking politicians as private individuals is simply not acceptable. It is beyond anything we would expect to see in a democratic society.
This morning, the College of Aldermen met with the Minister of Internal Security (Ministre de la Sécurité intérieure) and the Public Prosecutor's Office to discuss the steps that the police could take to identify the offenders, optimise the supervision of future protests and prevent anything like this from happening again. Any criminal offences committed must be referred to the Public Prosecutor's Office.
This level of unrest runs counter to the basic tenets of Luxembourg society. The right to openly disagree with the decisions of politicians is a cornerstone of democracy, but this can only be done in a way that does not infringe on the rights and freedoms of others. The atmosphere at the Christmas market that day, when families were suddenly forced to leave, will not be a happy memory for visitors. However, evacuating the Christmas market was the right thing to do as there was a very real risk that the situation would deteriorate.
The City will monitor developments in this matter in collaboration with the Minister of Internal Security, the Grand-Ducal Police and the Public Prosecutor's Office. We will stay in contact with the organisers of other protests, particularly the "Marche blanche" and "Polonaise solidaire" groups, whose demonstrations have always been conducted in a peaceful fashion. It is my hope that next weekend too will be more peaceful than the last.