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Late Night ‘Emergency Ruling’: Conservatism Conference Can Go Ahead, Mayor Exceeded Authority by Sending Police to Shut Down Free Speech

A Brussels mayor who ordered police to shut down a conservative conference exceeded his authority and the event will go ahead unmolested today, a late-night court decision has ruled, citing the right to freedom to assembly in the national constitution.

The National Conservatism Conference in Brussels — the heart of the European Union — was shut down by police on Tuesday, who blocked the entrance and prevented speakers including a French Presidential Candidate and members of the European Parliament from getting inside. The bully-boy tactics by the municipal mayor, who boasted he was using public safety concerns to run conservatives out of the city, followed the conference having already been turned out of two previous venues in less than a week as other left-wing local mayors pressured them to cancel bookings.

But now an “emergency late-night ruling” from a top Belgian court says socialist Mayor Emir Kir acted unconstitutionally, a decision that campaigners and lawyers have hailed as a victory for freedom of speech. The court found if there was a risk of violence, it was caused by the counter-protesters, not the conference itself, making closing the conference down disproportionate.

Speakers including the Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban and former German spy-chief turned conservative insurgent Hans-Georg Maaßen are addressing the conference today.

The Alliance Defending Freedom International, which provided legal assistance to the conference, confirmed overnight the meeting would be “free to meet” on Wednesday after “the Conseil d’État, the highest court in Belgium relating to issues of public administration” made its ruling. Reproducing the text of the judgement, the ADF revealed that the judge had found:

…the court decided that “Article 26 of the Constitution [of Belgium] grants everyone the right to assemble peacefully,” and although the mayor has the authority to make police ordinances in case of “serious disturbance of the public peace or other unforeseen events,” in this case there was no sufficient threat of violence to justify this. The Court reasoned that “it does not seem possible to infer from the contested decision that a peace-disrupting effect is attributed to the congress itself”. Rather, as the decision notes, “the threat to public order seems to be derived purely from the reactions that its organization might provoke among opponents”.

The body praised the court for affirming “basic human rights” and “common sense and justice”, but nevertheless said the whole affair is a “dark mark on European democracy”. They said: “No official should have the power to shut down free and peaceful assembly merely because he disagrees with what is being said. How can Brussels claim to be the heart of Europe if its officials only allow one side of the European conversation to be heard?

“The kind of authoritarian censorship we have just witnessed belongs in the worst chapters of Europe’s history.” Lawyer Wouter Vaassen, who supported the case, further asserted: “This should never have happened, especially in Brussels—the political heart of Europe.

“The free and peaceful exchange of ideas, and the basic freedom of assembly, are hallmarks of a democratic Europe. That a legal challenge of this kind needed to be mounted simply to be able to gather as a peaceful conference is a disgrace. We must diligently protect our fundamental freedoms lest censorship become the norm in our supposedly free societies.”

Several figures declared the whole episode had been deeply counterproductive for the leftist mayor, as it had exposed very publicly the danger to free speech and the intolerance of the hard-left. Nigel Farage, one of the speakers who made it to the conference on Tuesday, branded the attempt to shut down the conference “a massive own goal” for the mayor.

Even veteran Eurocrat and enemy of both Brexit and the Hungarian Prime Minister, Guy Verhofstadt spoke out, calling the debacle a “ridiculous own goal” and saying the left should seek to defeat the right with better arguments, not censorship. He had earlier dismissed the conference as a meeting of “Europe’s far-right friends of Putin”.

British journalist Melanie Philips, a speaker today, reflected: “Even the Belgian Prime Minister has denounced [the mayor ordering police to shut down the conference]… talk about an own goal! At a stroke, our ideological enemies have shown it is, in fact, the left that is intolerant, and oppressive, and a threat to democracy, and a dictatorial risk to freedom, and national conservatism is now the resistance”.

A spokesman for conference co-convener the Mathias Corvinus Collegium (MCC) Brussels, John O’Brien also spoke to this idea in comments to Breitbart News yesterday, when he said the police-enforced closure was shocking to mainstream journalists to had been sent to cover the event. He said: “There has been a media spotlight, some of the journalists here today might not share the views of the speakers [but they are amazed at what has happened]… I think a lot of people might not have cared, but are seeing that something Orwellian — and I don’t like to throw that word around easily — even the most unsympathetic journalists to the conservative cause have seen a major overstep by the left and by anti-democratic forces.

“I think that has shocked the sensibilities of those that otherwise would have dismissed the idea of ‘cancel culture’ or ‘woke’.”

O’Brien said in further comments to Breitbart on Wednesday after the court ruling that the banning shows how Europe now has to work to undo the damage of recent years and “build back tolerance and freedom”. He said: “This case illustrates how extreme the woke left have become and how we must build back tolerance and freedom we must rest from their hands a stranglehold on free speech… If it was not for our resolution in finding and holding a third venue against the police delivering an order to close our meeting, free speech would have been defeated. Not good enough, Belgium.”

As earlier reported, an unusually broad group of leading political figures spoke up against the censorious act of Turkish heritage politician Mayor Kir, who the ADF asserted had previously been kicked out of a mainstream left-wing Belgian party because of his alleged association with extremist Turkish political factions. Belgian business newspaper L’Echo reported in 2020 that Mayor Kir had been accused of welcoming “a delegation of Turkish mayors to the Saint-Josse municipal hall, including two belonging to the MHP, a far-right party close to the Grey Wolves.”

The Grey Wolves, which are banned in several countries as dangerous extremists, have been held responsible for extremist marches in Europe and in 2020, Austrian government ministers were placed under police protection after receiving death threats from the group.

Speaking at the conference on Wednesday morning, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán compared the attempts to shut the event down to the dying days of communism in Hungary, when the now-ruling Fidesz party was founded in 1988 and attempted to organise, but found pressures from the government were similar to those experienced in Belgium.

He is reported to have said: “We established Fidesz in 1988 as a young political organization. We started to organize meetings. It was not as harsh a dictatorship as earlier, but they did everything not to let it happen–the free expression of our opinion.

“We rented a place in Budapest, and several hours prior to the meeting they said it’s not available. We looked for another one; they said if the owner would supply beer and food, he’d be out of business. The same kind of pressure was very common in the second part of the 80s. Finally, we won.”

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