Few European capitals are as loathed as Brussels. Whether it be on the right, as the scapegoat for everything wrong with national political policies, or on the left, as the enforcer of American-style neoliberal reforms, the EU’s lead city has definitely seen better days. No one will argue that the economic crisis has damaged the prospects of further European integration. It makes perfect sense that under such circumstances, Brussels’ rep would get tarnished. After all, it’s become a synonym, as much as it is a name.
To locals, however, the Belgian capital (yes, it is that, too) gets branded a bit differently. Not necessarily more positively. Just differently. Hence, one of the most common pieces of street art seen around the city in recent years: flyers protesting the construction of a new maxi-prison. For anti-fascist and anti-prison campaigners, it’s been a perfect opportunity to emphasize local politics, separate from the constant hand-wringing, even in Brussels, about the failings of the European project.
That doesn’t mean that these flyers are not without some universal merit. What happens in Brussels, if EU logic holds true, happens everywhere in the bloc. And, certainly, there is an abstract air to the criticisms of prison culture, in the flyer translations below, which speak to the problems that plague prisons, in general. Still, the idea that Europe’s capital would be the subject of such fierce debate about the prison industrial complex, has something of a halo effect, on public perceptions of European federal governance.
We are against prisons (left)
We are against prisons because they are born and advanced to defend the privileges of the rich and powerful.
We are against prisons because they are used to lock up the poor and control misery.
We are against prisons because the sound of the key turning in the lock is torture on a daily basis, isolation is an abomination, the end of visiting hours is pain, and the time spent locked up slowly kills.
We are against prisons because we have not forgotten the concrete-grey school corridors, and that sirens will always echo within us in beat with our indoctrination.
We are against prisons because there will always be prison guards to stifle our revolts.
We are against prisons because we want to radically change our society, not peacefully integrate into these cities, factories, barracks and supermarkets.
Because this world needs them too much.
THE STATE IS WATCHING US,
DESTROY ITS EYES! (right)
THOUSANDS OF CAMERAS CRISSCROSS THE CITY
ADD TO CONTROLLING URBANIZATION,
TO ALL SORTS OF UNIFORMS,
TO RECORDING OF THE POPULATION,
TO SIM CARDS AND MOBILE PHONES,
TO CAMERAS THAT REVEAL SO MUCH
ABOUT HOW WE LIVE:
AN OPEN-AIR PRISON
THE STATE AND THE BOSSES
WANT US TO BELIEVE
THAT THEY INCREASE CONTROL
FOR “OUR” SECURITY,
BUT IT IS “THEM” AND “THEIR” SYSTEM
THEY WANT TO PROTECT…
THEY WANT TO FORCE US
TO WALK IN A STRAIGHT LINE,
AND WORSE STILL, ENSURE THAT WE
NEVER CONFRONT THEM:
LET’S BE UNCONTROLLABLE!
Translated from the French by Kit Rickard. Photographs courtesy of Lieven SOTE and Joel Schalit.