The Claim and Our Verdict
The claim: A video circulating on social media claims to show protesters in Brussels demanding the dissolution of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
- The video shows a protest in Brussels on June 20, 2022. The protest was jointly organized by the General Labour of Federation of Belgium, the Confederation of Christian Trade Unions, and the General Confederation of Liberal Trade Unions of Belgium. It aims to urge the Belgian government to increase wages amid rising inflation and living cost.
- Although there were some protesters holding signs against NATO or demanding that Belgium withdraws from NATO, the main purpose of the demonstration was to demand higher wages.
Our verdict: Protesters in Brussels demanded higher wages, not the “dissolution of NATO.”
A video was shared June 21, 2022 on Twitter. The caption, written in simplified Chinese, translates as, “Nearly 80,000 people took to the streets in Brussels today to demand the dissolution of NATO.”
As of the publication of this report, the tweet had been shared 79 times, five times with quote, and it had garnered 199 likes or reactions. Similar posts have circulated on Facebook here and here, and on Weibo here.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), established in 1949, is an intergovernmental military alliance for the purpose of collective defense. The founding members include the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and France.
1. What is the source of the claim?
The simplified Chinese-language subtitles, superimposed on the video, translate as: “Nearly 80,000 protesters in Brussels demand the dissolution of NATO,” and “People take to streets to protest against the rising cost of living due to high inflation and demand the dissolution of NATO.”
Keyword searches based on the abovementioned subtitles were conducted. A relevant news article published June 22, 2022 by the Chinese state-run media website Huanqiu.com was found. The article states, “According to a news article published June 21, 2022 by the Russian state-funded broadcaster RT, around 70,000 to 80,000 protesters chanted the slogan of “stop NATO,” crowded the streets of Brussels (where both NATO and the European Union headquarters are located), and brought the city to a standstill on June 20, 2022… Many protesters also condemned the continued supplies of weapons to Ukraine by the US-led NATO and asked the Belgian government to spend money on improving wages, not on weapons.”
The article published June 20, 2022 by RT was titled “Protesters chant ‘stop NATO’ at massive rally in heart of EU (VIDEOS).” The article claims, “Tens of thousands demonstrated against the rising cost of living, with many linking the crisis to the West’s Russia policies.” The article adds, “However, many linked their dire economic straits to the EU’s sanctions regime on Russia and with the NATO alliance’s rush to arm Ukraine.”
2. What was the main demand of the protest in Brussels on June 20, 2022?
At the 11-second mark of the Twitter video, there is a screenshot of a news article published by the Belgian local media outlet The Brussels Times. The news article was published June 20, 2022, titled “Belgium in Brief: Mass mobilisation in Brussels and flights grounded.” According to the article, protests broke out across Belgium on June 20, disrupting the country’s transport network—in particular, the aviation sector as action by various airlines coincides with those of G4S security staff. All departing flights from Belgium’s principal airport have been cancelled. The article states that a large number of employees of public transport operators also protested against the cost-of-living crisis that has greatly hit household budgets as wages struggle to keep up with inflation. The only one subway line in Brussels was still in operation, while bus and tram services were greatly affected. However, the article does not mention that the purpose of the protest was to demand the dissolution of NATO.
A further keyword search was conducted. None of the reports from Reuters, the United Arab Emirates’ The National, or Euronews mentioned that the protest’s demand was related to NATO. Only one photo showing a protester holding a sign that reads “Belgium out of NATO” can be found on AP Images.
Another news article about the protest published June 20, 2022 by The Brussels Times stated that the protesters were from three trade unions, i.e., the General Labour of Federation of Belgium (Fédération Générale du Travail de Belgique, FGTB), the Confederation of Christian Trade Unions (Confédération des Syndicats Chrétiens, CSC) and the General Confederation of Liberal Trade Unions of Belgium (Centrale Générale des Syndicats Libéraux de Belgique, CGSLB).
According to the “call for participation” articles published June 20 by the above three trade unions (the General Labour of Federation of Belgium, the Confederation of Christian Trade Unions, and the General Confederation of Liberal Trade Unions of Belgium), the purpose of the demonstration was to urge the government to raise wages in response to the rising cost of living. None of the articles have mentioned the “dissolution of NATO.”
The Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of Belgium in China have debunked the rumor on Twitter and Weibo respectively, emphasizing that the main demand of the demonstration was not against NATO: “This is what we call disinformation. The demonstration in Brussels on Monday, June 20, asked for more purchasing power and was in NO WAY directed against NATO or our support to Ukraine in the war waged against this country by Russia.”
To sum up, although individual protesters might have expressed their dissatisfaction with NATO, the main purpose of the protest was to ask for higher wages to keep pace with the rising cost of living.
Protesters in Brussels demanded higher wages, not the “dissolution of NATO.”
- Facebook, post, June 21, 2022.
- Weibo, post, June 21, 2022.
- Huanqiu.com, “Big crowds take to Brussels streets. Protesters shout ‘stop NATO’, Russian media outlet says,” June 22, 2022.
- The North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s official website.
- RT official website.
- RT, “Protesters chant ‘stop NATO’ at massive rally in heart of EU (VIDEOS),” June 20, 2022.
- The Brussels Times, “Belgium in Brief: Mass mobilisation in Brussels and flights grounded,” June 20, 2022.
- Reuters, “Brussels at near-standstill as cost-of-living march draws 70,000,” June 20, 2022.
- The National, “Flights hit as 70,000 striking workers protest in Brussels,” July 20, 2022.
- Euronews, “National strike sees Brussels airport cancel all outgoing flights,” June 20, 2022.
- AP Images, “Belgium Demonstration Trade Unions (Photo ID: 22171329004855),” June 20, 2022.
- The Brussels Times, “National strike: Mass mobilisation turns Brussels green, red and blue,” June 20, 2022.
- The General Labour of Federation of Belgium’s official website.
- The Confederation of Christian Trade Unions’ official website.
- The General Confederation of Liberal Trade Unions of Belgium’s official website.
- The General Labour of Federation of Belgium, “20 juin // Grande manifestation syndicale en front commun,” June 20, 2022.
- The Confederation of Christian Trade Unions, “Tijd voor actie! Manifesteer mee op maandag 20 juni!”
- The General Confederation of Liberal Trade Unions of Belgium, “Rendez-vous le 20 juin!”
- Twitter, tweet, June 23, 2022.
- Weibo, post, June 24, 2022.