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I Witnessed It All: The Attempt to Silence Conservatives in Brussels

A ⁢Brussels mayor attempted to shut down a conservative gathering, sparking ⁤widespread backlash. The emergency court order reinstated the conference, highlighting a threat ⁣to free speech. This authoritarian move ‍drew international attention‌ and condemnation, showcasing the importance of upholding‌ fundamental freedoms in democratic​ societies. In Brussels, a mayor’s bid to⁣ close a conservative ‍meeting caused uproar.‌ A court order restored the event, emphasizing the danger to free speech. ⁢This authoritarian action gained global notice, underscoring the need to protect essential freedoms in thriving democracies.

By now, the world has heard the news. A municipal mayor in Brussels attempted to shut down a peaceful gathering of conservative leaders simply because he disagreed with their message.

The resultant outcry was enormous — the very essence of free speech was at stake — culminating in a rapidly executed emergency court order allowing the conference to resume, but not before the police had stepped in, relegating the first day of the event to abject chaos.

I was honored to lead the legal challenge against this authoritarian overstep, and in so doing, play a key part in this watershed moment for fundamental freedoms.

It was business as usual as I prepared to attend the National Conservatism Conference in Brussels from April 16-17. Known as “NatCon,” the event presented nothing out of the ordinary in a city that regularly ebbs and flows with gatherings across the political spectrum. As the center of the European Union, discussion, dialogue, and even peaceable demonstrations across the ideological spectrum are core to the Brussels ethos.


But cancel culture was quick to bare its teeth. The event, a mainstream gathering of conservatives representing diverse views, had already been canceled by two venues, before securing a third near Brussels’ European Quarter. It was at this point that the mayor of this district decided to step in, issuing an egregiously discriminatory order to shutter the conference due to a supposed threat to “public peace.”

The order made two facts indisputably clear: 1) There was no evidence whatsoever of a threat of violence. And 2) It was nothing more than the vision behind National Conservatism that motivated the shutdown. In essence, from the mayor’s perspective: I don’t like these people. I shall not allow them to meet.

As stated in the mayor’s order:

That this vision is not only ethically conservative (e.g. hostility to the legalization of abortion, same-sex unions, etc.) but also focused on the defense of ‘national sovereignty,’ which implies, among other things, a ‘Eurosceptic’ attitude.

To be clear, pro-life views are not a crime. Neither is, of course, the “defense of national sovereignty.” This was a dictatorial and discriminatory abuse of power, pure and simple. And when I arrived at the conference on the morning of April 16, the effects of this abuse were evident. Pictures of a line of police in riot gear flooded X — the world was on notice that something insidious was afoot in Brussels.

Police surrounded the door, preventing participants from entering. It was only my direct line with the organizers that got me in. Never mind that expected to attend were multiple high-level participants including former U.K. Home Secretary Suella Braverman, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and Cardinal Müller from Germany. The diplomatic ramifications of this fiasco cannot be overstated, prompting reactions from both the U.K. and Belgian Prime Ministers, and massive international outcry.

Omar Havana/Getty Images

The freedoms of speech and assembly are essential for the functioning of any democratic society. In fact, without them, there cannot be said to be democracy. And yet, here we were, confronted by a line of police for exercising our right to peacefully gather and discuss the issues of our day. This kind of authoritarianism has no place in contemporary Europe — a disgrace to our continent and the values the EU espouses.

As a lawyer for ADF International, an organization dedicated to the promotion of fundamental freedoms, I found myself in the right place at the right time to rise to the defense of basic human rights.

We lead the charge alongside the NatCon organizers in mounting a legal challenge, which was decided in our favor by the Conseil d’État, Belgium’s highest administrative court, at 2:30 a.m.on April 17. The fact that the court had convened and decided overnight was a testament to the outrageous nature of what had transpired. The judgment was clear — the conference would be allowed to continue into its second day without police interference.

Fueled by espresso and croissants, day two of the conference proceeded with a markedly electric energy. Conference attendees previously barred from entry took on the talks and conversations with a newfound gusto, having just come face to face with the frightening reality of what it means to be a “conservative” in Europe.

While among us at the conference there would surely be disagreement and differences of opinion on a great many issues, we found ourselves enjoying a unique moment of solidarity — united in our shared commitment to protecting our basic human right to speak freely.

What happened this week depicts the state of free speech in Europe in a very poor light. This is the sad reality of European censorship. However, we remain optimistic that it also will serve as an important wake-up call, reminding us of the crucial importance of diligently defending our fundamental freedoms under the law, lest they slip away from us as they have done before in the darker moments of our continent’s history.

* * *

Jean-Paul Van De Walle is legal counsel, Europe, for ADF International in Brussels, and led the legal efforts that successfully challenged the shut-down of the National Conservatism Conference.

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

" Conservative News Daily does not always share or support the views and opinions expressed here; they are just those of the writer."

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