Peace March reaches Belgium
Brussels forbids Protest at NATO
The Hague - Brussels, May 22nd 1999 - After a seven day journey on foot covering 150km, 300 marchers of all ages from more than thirty countries carried their message of peace and non-violence across the border into Belgium. The walkers started in The Hague, and will arrive at the Atomium in Brussels next Wednesday May 25th at 6 p.m. The final march to NATO headquarters planned for Thursday morning May 26th has been declared illegal by the Mayor of Brussels. The walkers are appalled by this restriction on freedom of speech and inherent right to demonstrate.
Organised by For Mother Earth, the walk left last Sunday May 16th from the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The march is planned to arrive at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Thursday May 27. In a letter addressed to NATO Secretary General Solana the walkers have appealed to NATO member states to take substantial steps toward a global treaty banning all nuclear weapons. They also demand an immediate end to NATO's military action in the former Yugoslavia, and a political and non-violent solution to the conflict by the UN and the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe).
The cold reception in Brussels is in strong contrast to the rest of the walk as the marchers have been warmly received by towns and villages all along the route. City councils of The Hague, Delft, Rotterdam, Dordrecht, Zevenbergen, Breda, Antwerpen and Mechelen have all offered their support, including excellent camping facilities and welcoming receptions. Local people also have helped out with donations of organic food and blankets for this international mobile peace village as it passes through their home towns.
The state of war in the Balkans has led the Mayor of Brussels to prohibit the marchers from protesting at NATO headquarters. The marchers are determined to bring their message of non-violence and appeal to the Atlantic Alliance to adhere to international law. Pol D'Huyvetter, a For Mother Earth spokesperson, declared: 'If NATO protects democracy they should be open for opinions from civil society and respect international law. We however observe that NATO violates law and silences all opposition and dissident opinions on the issue of nuclear weapons. Following the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, NATO today serves mostly the interests of the military industrial complex. In the Balkan war there will be no winners. Only the arms salesmen and the elite will profit.'
Mr. Myake Nobuo (70), a Japanese survivor of Hiroshima, joined the march for the first 100km. Myake was a 16 year old student when the US dropped the first atomic bomb on this Japanese city killing more than 100,000 people, mostly innocent citizens. Mr. Myake strongly condemned this crime against humanity, and the fact that it was never properly addressed in a court of law.
Marchers have arrived from Azerbeidjan, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Cameroon, Colombia, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Iran, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New-Zealand, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Sweden, Ukraine, USA and Wales.
Simon-Pierre Etoga who comes from the African state of Cameroon walks for his war torn continent that has been ravaged by famine and human suffering as a result of armed conflict. "By walking, I wish to contribute to a world free of war." Next week a group of 200 Indian farmers will join the march in Antwerp and Brussels. The walk has received the support of Abolition 2000, an international network of over 1300 NGO's working to eliminate all nuclear weapons.
The organisation of the international peace march is being co-ordinated from the international office of For Mother Earth in Gent, Belgium. Since 1991 For Mother Earth organized more than 12000km of peace marches across the US and Europe
Audiovisual footage available from the walk
During the walk, the mobile media unit will be providing continuous coverage via video clips, stills and digital images. These are available upon request. The audio-visual website will carry highlights of the footage, which is located at: http://www.motherearth.org/walk99/pics
Letter to Solana http://www.motherearth.org/walk99/tonato.htm
For updates and more information contact:
- the 'Hague Appeal for Peace' http://www.hap99.org
- For Mother Earth http://www.motherearth.org
Route, camping spots, etc. http://www.motherearth.org/walk99
- Press Briefings on Internet & on location: http://www.motherearth.org/walk99/press.htm
More information is also available on site during the walk from the For Mother Earth press office (red travel-bus) which will follow the route. (May 16 - 30).
- Press contacts: Pol D´Huyvetter and Krista Van Velzen
Audio-visual media contact: Ville Aho
GSM +32-495-28 02 59 (23rd until 31st of May in Belgium)