Belgium: Ricochets, monthly, No. 1, Brussels, November 2014

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Translated from Finimondo
by act for freedom now
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Ricochets is a bulletin born within the struggle against the construction of a maxi-prison north of Brussels. It is a struggle outside any party or official organization, a struggle that aims to prevent directly, concretely, by ourselves, the construction of this new jail. It is a massive struggle, as the maxi-prison is an emblematic project of the present time: a general crackdown, increased repression, violent restructuring of the city according to the needs of power and the economy …
Ricochets aims to share the news about this struggle, spread its different expressions and deepen it with critical reflections. It intends to create an autonomous space of links between those fighting against this new jail directly and open up a possibility: that their actions ricochet into an uncontrollable outbreak.
 Let’s rebel against the maxi-prison

 The Belgian State wants to build a new prison at Haren, north of Brussels. It is expected to become the largest detention facility in Belgium, a maxi-prison, a real penitentiary village that will bring together five different prisons in one place. Like the other new prisons built over the past two years, the Brussels one will be realised by a “public-private partnership.” This means that its construction and management are entirely in the hands of private companies, and that the State will rent it to these companies for 25 years, after which it will eventually become its property. No need to look too far to understand the huge economic interests that this project represents.
 This maxi-prison will also be the first in Belgium where it will be possible for so many men women and children to be locked up (the complex will contain 1200 cells). A court inside the prison will also restrict the movement of detainees to an indispensable minimum.
The construction of this atrocity is the icing on the cake of the “master plan” conceived by one of the previous governments, and involves the construction of about nine new prisons, in every corner of the country. This project is being peddled to the population as the ultimate answer to overcrowding and the advanced decay of some prisons as a great step towards a more humane prison, one more concerned about prisoners’ rehabilitation. Such a move was almost inevitable for power given that for a number of years the prison world has been plagued by escapes, kidnappings of guards, protests, large and small mutinies. Moreover, the detention conditions have generated several international interventions that have scourged the Belgian State. So they want to get rid of the unrest, riots and international attention. But all this talk of humanization pulled out of a hat in times of so-called crisis to ensure that the population accept the huge economic outlay for the prison, is obviously absolute bullshit. Is no more than a contemporary coating to something ancient: power sharpening its repressive weapons in order to be safe, defend itself and preserve its targets of greater control and repression.
Money is being invested in the justice system in various ways in Belgium at the moment. There are not only thousands of new cells, there is also an increase in the use of electronic bracelets, house arrest, forced labour, fines, etc. For the State, it is not a question of humanizing sanctions, but of extending them to all those who are able to find loopholes and still succeed in escaping the clutches of the law. By greatly increasing the prison capacity and extending possibilities of alternative sentences, it wants to provide all possible means to have greater control of society in order to punish even more people and lock them up in jail, at home, at work or strangled by debt.
And the powerful are now aware that the realization of all that does not come about solely with the traditional construction of the repressive apparatus. If we look at the city of Brussels, we see that the maxi-prison is not the only project aimed at controlling people, determining different kinds of behaviour, influencing and delimiting daily life. Projects testifying to this are sprouting up like mushrooms, even in the most remote corners of the city: the construction of new police stations to installation of more CCTV cameras, along with a reinforced police presence on the streets. From the extension of the European area to the creation of an extremely controlled public transport network to take workers living outside the city quickly and efficiently to their jobs. From the construction of bigger and bigger consumer temples, to the creation of new expensive housing in the poorest neighbourhoods in a project of “social cleansing”. All these brilliant inventions are simply tools with the sole purpose of keeping people within their ranks or forcing them to re-enter, and to label, humiliate, hunt and lock up those who cannot or consciously refuse to do so. The new maxi-prison at Haren and the urban restructuring in Brussels are two sides of the same coin.
Almost two years ago, the first leaflets expressing a radical opposition to the construction of the prison at Haren were handed out, directly linking this latest repressive State project to the slow but sure transformation of the city into a huge open prison. Since then, a struggle that has seen many initiatives and different intensities was born: flyers, posters, writings, pickets, occupations, demonstrations, sabotage, direct action. All initiatives that breathe an anti-political attitude, and are an invitation to each one to also pass to the attack, in direct conflict with the powerful and their plans. They also claim the autonomy of the struggle, encouraging organizing oneself when, how and with whom one prefers, in direct confrontation with what is oppressing us.
The construction of the maxi-prison at Haren will never be prevented with words alone. Imagination, ideas, perseverance, passion and the acts of each one could stoke a fire that no project of any bastion of power will be able to resist. Let’s keep exploring ways, let’s act now.
[Ricochets, monthly, No. 1, Brussels, November 2014]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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