Posted on April 24, 2006

80 000 March for MP3 Victim (SA), April 23, 2006

Brussels — A silent march in Brussels to protest against urban violence and honour a youth killed for his digital music player attracted 80 000 demonstrators on Sunday, police said.

The demonstrators, many of whom came with their families, made their way in a tight procession along the Boulevard du Jardin Botanique to the city’s Palais de Justice.

They didn’t carry banners or any sign of political affiliation, at the request of the family of the victim, whose murder has deeply shocked Belgium.

Many of the demonstrators placed flowers in front of Brussels’ central station, where 17-year-old Joe Van Holsbeek was killed on April 12 by two youths after his MP3 player.

The silence was broken only by the murmur of the crowd and applause that broke out when the victim’s family was spotted at the heart of the procession.

The brutal murder unleashed a wave of emotion unlike any the country has seen since the case of paedophile killer Marc Dutroux broke 10 years ago.

Holsbeek’s killers are still at large and police have circulated photo-fits in the hope of tracking them down.

Memories are still vivid in Belgium’s political class of a march in 1996 of 300 000 people, when public outrage in the wake of the Dutroux case focused on the authorities and eventually led to a reform of the legal system.

The press has given the Holsbeek killing extensive coverage and politicians have widely condemned the murder although the victim’s family have asked that it not become a political issue.

The murder has sparked calls for tougher measures to ensure safety in public places.