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Mayor orders shutdown of conference of Europe’s far-right elites


BRUSSELS — A Brussels mayor on Tuesday ordered the shutdown of a gathering on “national conservatism” that was underway in the Belgian capital, giving Europe’s hard-right elites a further opportunity to rail against cancel culture and Brussels overreach.

The event was supposed to be a two-day conference featuring the likes of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, former British politician Nigel Farage and other far-right, Euroskeptic officials and thinkers.

But several hours in, just as Farage took the stage for his keynote, Belgian police arrived outside.

Emir Kir, the mayor of the district where the event was being held, said he had issued a shutdown order “to guarantee public safety.” He added: “The far-right is not welcome” in the city.

“I knew I wouldn’t be welcome back to Brussels,” Farage, the former Brexit Party leader, said to laughter from the audience.

The speeches continued while police stood in front of the entrance of the Claridge event space, letting people out but not in. Among those blocked was Eric Zemmour, who ran as a far-right candidate in France’s 2022 presidential election. He accused the mayor of links to “Turkish Islamists” and of using the police like “a private militia.”

Organizers said they would pursue legal action.

Orban, scheduled to speak Thursday, posted on X that the Belgian police decided to shut down the event because “they couldn’t take free speech any longer.”

“If only the globalists in Brussels put as much energy into securing our borders as they did trying to gag conservatives, maybe our continent would be in a healthier state,” said former British home secretary Suella Braverman, who spoke after Farage.

Amid all the Brussels bashing, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, a Flemish liberal, spoke out on the side of the conference. “What happened at the Claridge today is unacceptable,” he posted on X. “Municipal autonomy is a cornerstone of our democracy but can never overrule the Belgian constitution guaranteeing the freedom of speech and peaceful assembly since 1830. Banning political meetings is unconstitutional. Full stop.”

For most of the day on Tuesday, there were no counterprotesters outside, only media and police. Inside, tea and canapés were served without incident.

Across town, a bomb threat briefly forced the evacuation of the Palace of Justice, Belgian federal police confirmed.

Around 5:30 p.m., about 40 people showed up outside the conference and began chanting anti-fascism slogans. The demonstrators stayed about 300 feet from the conference venue, watched by police in riot gear.

The conference, organized by the Edmund Burke Foundation, a right-wing think tank, had struggled to find a venue, with two options falling through before organizers landed on a space not far from the European Quarter.

As the event began Tuesday, attendees gathered in the cramped, humid event hall to listen to a panel featuring a Flemish nationalist and a far-right academic blast the European Union, “gender theory” and migration.

The last-minute venue change was a recurrent theme. Organizers and speakers framed it as evidence of a campaign of censorship against conservatives around the world.

Then an excited whisper went through the audience: The police were coming. Organizers and journalists rushed to the front of the building while various reporters and attendees went live with the news.

“It is an attempt to cancel free speech,” said John O’Brian, head of communications for MCC Brussels, an Orban-friendly think tank, “to cancel elected officials and other people from getting together for conversations.”

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