I live in what is called the Pentagon: the centre of the city of Brussels. Not the EU quarter, but downtown in the heart of what was the medieval city. 10 minutes on foot, on the other side of the canal, is the Molenbeek. From my window I can see Molenbeek town hall in one direction and, in the other, the Hotel de Ville on the Grand Place.
It’s just after 10:40 CET here and sirens are wailing in my neighbourhood and the loud-hailers are sounding on police cars again. It’s been quiet since 9:00. The police seem to be going over the bridge into the Molenbeek in one direction and heading up to Gare du Nord in the other. Police raids I assume, but how can you be sure?
At about 8:30 there was a commotion at the end of the square where I live. No idea exactly what happened; woman screaming loudly in Arabic, loads of unmarked police cars with only the flashing blue lights to give them away whizzing around. Then some police vans arrived and released police dogs out into the streets. Police cars shooting off every which way in all sorts of directions.
After 15 minutes of intense activity, they all sped off and it was back to silence. All I could hear was the police loudspeakers in the adjacent neighbourhood but couldn’t quite make out what was being said.
The raids and cat and mouse game have been going on in my neighbourhood since November with periods of varying intensity. After a few months, you grow accustomed to it and you put your head down, keep your chin up, and carry on. You stay off of public transport and you keep a constant eye on those you love and care for.
Beyond that, what can you do?
Eliot Edwards, Director of Public Affairs at Aspect Consulting