Residents fight for their right to party in the park


People in the Laken district of Brussels have taken to their deck chairs to protest about fences around the park housing a sculpture by Constantin Meunier

"A real Brussels treasure"

The first of May is just behind us, the day when we mark the struggle of workers to obtain the rights we now enjoy. The working man and woman were constant sources of inspiration to 19th-century Brussels sculptor Constantin Meunier as he worked during the last 10 years of his life on his magnificent Monument to Labour, which stands in a small park in the Laken commune of Brussels.

It’s not possible to study Meunier’s masterpiece (pictured) up close because the park was enclosed several years ago by an iron fence, a reaction to an incident of vandalism. Now some local people have started a protest action aimed at having the fence removed and the park opened up to the public.

Last week they took the matter into their own hands and temporarily removed a section of the fence, brought in deck chairs and a barbecue and had themselves a party.

Lotte Stoops is one of the members of the neighbourhood committee AYAY, which headed up the picnic. People manage to climb over or through the fence, she pointed out to TV Brussel, and if they were of a mind to vandalise the statues, nothing was stopping them. So why not get rid of the fence?

“We’re sitting here on a real Brussels treasure,” she said. “The land belongs to the region, the monument belongs to the city; the region owns the fence but it’s maintained by the city. Those barriers and the wall belong to the port. So it could be some time before we … get everyone around the table.” 

Photo by Ben2/Wikimedia