Brussels Flies Again, As Airport Renews Operations After Terror Attacks
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Mary Louise Kelly, in for Michel Martin. In Brussels today, police arrested nearly three dozen peaceful demonstrators at the main memorial in the heart of the city, one sign of continued unrest in the wake of last month's terrorist bombings that killed 32 people. But there are also signs of hope. The Brussels Airport announced it's set to reopen tomorrow to passenger flights. As NPR's Russell Lewis reports, travelers will see a lot of security changes as the airport struggles to return to operations.
RUSSELL LEWIS, BYLINE: Around the Zaventem airport today, security was very high. Police were set up at the main entrances stopping all traffic that tried to enter the area. Brussels Airport CEO, Arnaud Feist, told reporters that almost two weeks since the the attacks the airport is ready to open.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
ARNAUD FEIST: A restart of the operations, even only partially, as quick as this is a sign of hope that shows our shared will and our strengths to resurface and not to let our heads down.
LEWIS: Suicide bombers detonated their explosives in two areas near the ticket counters causing major damage to the departure hall. Tomorrow, just three Brussels Airlines planes are supposed to depart, and then, on Monday, Feist says just a handful more are scheduled.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
FEIST: We have consciously opted for a limited offer that can evolve gradually over time. The airport will only be accessible by car or by taxi during the first days.
LEWIS: Travelers approaching the airport will be stopped and their cars randomly inspected. They'll have to park far from the terminal and go through security screening before they even enter the airport. He doesn't expect the airport to get back to full-service until July.
(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in foreign language).
LEWIS: Meantime, in downtown Brussels, scores of people filled Place de la Bourse as they have since the bombings. It's a makeshift memorial that honors the victims with flowers, candles and posters. But today police were concerned about protests across the city and ordered people not to congregate. Hundreds of police entered the plaza in vans, on foot and on horseback.
Last Sunday, protesters described as right-wing nationalists stormed the memorial and disrupted what had been a peaceful vigil. On that occasion, police used water cannons but made few arrests. Today was very different. They detained people for simply standing and watching. The even took several journalist and a noted human rights advocate into custody. Nadia Boomuhzoh was in the crowd.
NADIA BOOMUHZOH: (Through interpreter) Pacifists come here in the square and the police arrest them because they've received orders from the politicians. Whereas last week, 350-500 fascists come in - I was there, I saw them - we just let them come, whereas today the order was to arrest everyone.
LEWIS: Stephen Bonnet says it's unfair to criticize the police. Last week, he says, people complained and now, are even more upset when they crack down.
STEPHEN BONNET: (Through interpreter) Terrorism is everywhere, we don't know where it's going to be coming from.
LEWIS: There was also more tension in the community of Molenbeek today, as hundreds gathered to try to prevent violence. Molenbeek is a largely Muslim neighborhood, and it's where a number of the militants who staged the November attacks in Paris had lived. Russell Lewis, NPR News, Brussels.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.