The mayors of Molenbeek, Anderlecht, Schaerbeek and Saint-Josse-ten-Noode have forbidden a Flemish and a Dutch far-right politician, both known for their anti-immigrant stance, from visiting their municipalities on Friday.
On 26 April, Flemish far-right Vlaams Belang politician Filip Dewinter announced that he would like to walk through Molenbeek together with Geert Wilders, the Chair of the Party for Freedom (PVV) in the Netherlands.
The announcement followed a statement by Conner Rousseau, the leader of the Flemish socialist Vooruit party, who said that he does "not feel like [he is] in Belgium" when he drives through Molenbeek.
On Thursday evening, however, Molenbeek mayor Catherine Moureaux decided to ban the duo's "walk" through her municipality and issued a police ordinance forbidding the visit. The ban does not only apply to both populist politicians, but also to all participants, gatherings in the context of the visit, as well as any protesters.
Previously, Dewinter and Wilders already announced that they would move their "walk" to another municipality if they did not receive permission to visit Molenbeek.
'Provocative, insulting and discriminatory'
Following Molenbeek's ban on the visit on Thursday, the neighbouring or nearby municipalities of Anderlecht, Schaerbeek and Saint-Josse announced that they too forbade any possible visit by Wilders and Dewinter on Friday morning.
"Given the serious threat to public order, I signed a police order this morning forbidding any kind of gathering on the territory of Anderlecht related to this sickening project," said mayor Fabrice Cumps in a Facebook post.
He stressed that the duo's so-called "working visit" through the streets of Molenbeek was "provocative, insulting and discriminatory" to the municipality's inhabitants, and he signed a police order to make sure they do not "wander into" his municipality.
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"We will never give in to the provocations of the far-right, whose sole aim is to destroy the positive and inclusive dynamics that we build day after day with all Anderlecht residents, regardless of their origin," added Cumps.
Following suit, Saint-Josse's mayor Emir Kir also issued a police order banning the event and the manifestation on the municipality's territory.
"We have been on the alert for some time because we do not want any event of which the objective is to divide the population and to stigmatise a part of it to be able to parade in our streets and our capital," he said on Twitter.
Schaerbeek mayor Cécile Jodogne, too, announced that a demonstration is not allowed on the territory of her municipality.
"Just heard that we – Filip and I – have been banned from walking in almost the entire city of Brussels. Unbelievable," Wilders said on Twitter. "We will be handed the ban by the police commissioner on the street. I am curious. This is 100% capitulation to Islam."
In the meantime, Wilders and Dewinter arrived in the Flemish Parliament in Brussels. From there, their walk was supposed to lead to the Madou square in Saint-Josse, but they were immediately met by a police officer with the order in hand.
Both politicians were not allowed to go further than the border. On their return to the Flemish Parliament after the short walk, the police intervened when three protesters were waiting for Wilders and Dewinter with a banner.
Banned 'Islam safari' through Brussels
In the past, Wilders has been charged with incitement several times in the Netherlands. In 2016, he was found guilty of incitement and encouraging discrimination against Moroccan immigrants when during a party rally, he asked supporters if they wanted more or fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands.
When the crowd responded with calls of "fewer," he said that his party "would take care of that." Despite the guilty verdict, however, he was not punished.
Dewinter, meanwhile, was the chairman of the Flemish Vlaams Blok party, which was called extreme-right by several political analysts, until 2004, when the party dissolved itself after being convicted of racism. It later rebranded itself as the far-right Vlaams Belang party, of which Dewinter is still a prominent member.
In 2017, Dewinter and Wilders already planned to undertake what they then called an "Islam safari" in Molenbeek to "determine on the spot how the Brussels municipality was affected by Islamisation and mass migration." Then, too, former Molenbeek mayor Françoise Schepmans banned them from coming.