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Scores arrested at Brussels protest over black man’s death in police custody

Police said violence broke out after a largely peaceful demonstration of about 500 protesters.

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A protestor throws stones toward police officers in the Belgium capital, Brussels, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, at the end of a protest asking for authorities to shed light on the circumstances surrounding the death of a 23-year-old Black man who was detained by police last week in Brussels. The demonstration in downtown Brussels was largely peaceful but was marred by incidents sparked by rioters who threw projectiles at police forces and set fires before it was dispersed. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

A protestor throws stones toward police officers in the Belgium capital, Brussels, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, at the end of a protest asking for authorities to shed light on the circumstances surrounding the death of a 23-year-old Black man who was detained by police last week in Brussels. The demonstration in downtown Brussels was largely peaceful but was marred by incidents sparked by rioters who threw projectiles at police forces and set fires before it was dispersed. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

A protestor throws stones toward police officers in the Belgium capital, Brussels, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, at the end of a protest asking for authorities to shed light on the circumstances surrounding the death of a 23-year-old Black man who was detained by police last week in Brussels. The demonstration in downtown Brussels was largely peaceful but was marred by incidents sparked by rioters who threw projectiles at police forces and set fires before it was dispersed. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

Four people including two minors remain in custody after scores were arrested during a demonstration in Brussels over the death of a young black man who had been detained by police.

A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office said three were suspected of arson. The fourth has been accused of rebellion following the Wednesday demonstration, when police made more than 100 arrests.

Officers said most of violence took place after a largely peaceful demonstration on Wednesday of about 500 protesters — some holding Black Lives Matter signs — ended in central Brussels.

“A group of demonstrators (50-100 people) remained on the spot and caused various incidents and degradations,” police said, adding that several officers were injured in the clashes.

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People shout slogans in the Belgian capital (Francisco Seco/AP)

People shout slogans in the Belgian capital (Francisco Seco/AP)

People shout slogans in the Belgian capital (Francisco Seco/AP)

According to a police statement, protesters threw projectiles, set fires, damaged street furniture and police vehicles. They also smashed a window and a door at a police station.

In all, 116 people were arrested, including 30 minors, and one protester was tended to by ambulance services, police said.

“Justice must bring to court those who have vandalised and have injured five policemen, including a policewoman who is hospitalised,” federal police captain Marc De Mesmaeker told broadcaster RTBF on Thursday.

“This must be done with care, just as the other aspect of the event, the tragic death of Ibrahima, must be treated with care.”

Prosecutors have requested that an investigative judge be appointed following the death of a 23-year-old black man identified by authorities only as IB.

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Protesters are blocked by police (Francisco Seco/AP)

Protesters are blocked by police (Francisco Seco/AP)

Protesters are blocked by police (Francisco Seco/AP)

The prosecutor’s office said he was arrested on January 9 after he allegedly tried to run away from police who were checking people gathered in the city centre despite Covid-19 restrictions on social gatherings.

He was taken to a police station where he fainted, and then transferred to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, the office said.

The prosecutor’s office said Belgium’s Comite P, an independent body overseeing police services, is investigating and a coroner has been appointed to perform a post-mortem as well as toxicology tests.

Belgian media reported the man had started to record police with his phone on Saturday when officers decided to carry out an ID check on him.

The prosecutor’s office said it has seized video surveillance images, from the police station and at the scene of his arrest.

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