Thousands of Belgian performers, cinema operators, event organizers and others joined together Sunday to protest the government’s decision to close down the country’s cultural life to stem the spread of the surging omicron variant.
Waving posters reading “The show must go on” or “No culture, no future,” the crowd demonstrated peacefully despite the pouring rain, accusing the government of unfairly targeting the culture industry with the new virus restrictions.
Under the measures, which took effect Sunday, events like Christmas markets are allowed to continue, despite their boisterous, chaotic gluhwein (mulled wine) parties, and restaurants and bars are allowed to stay open with some new restrictions.
Even the scientific committee advising the Belgian government had not asked for the culture industry closures, leaving virologist Marc Van Ranst to ponder that in Belgium “gluhwein beat culture.”
Scores of movie theaters and other venues disregarded the closure order, according to state broadcaster RTBF.
A brass band accompanied Sunday’s demonstration at the Mont des Arts in Brussels, the symbolic spot which spawned Belgian independence in 1830, and prominent cultural figures took to the stage to air their grievances.