Anti-racism activist removed from Walloon parade over blackface protest

Anti-racism activist removed from Walloon parade over blackface protest
'The Savage' character of the Ducasse d'Ath folkloric parade is depicted by a white man in blackface. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

An activist was asked to leave a folkloric Walloon parade on Sunday where he was protesting the presence of "The Savage," a character depicting Belgium's colonial past traditionally played by a man in blackface.

Police asked anti-racism activist Mouhad Reghif to leave the Ducasse d'Ath procession because the activist's safety could not be guaranteed, Ath mayor Bruno Lefèbvre told De Standaard.

The mayor said that Reghif's protest could be seen as "a provocation," and he was reportedly escorted to the highway by the police, suggesting he should leave the town.

The Ducasse d'Ath is a UNESCO-recognised parade in which live characters and giant figures depicting local and national history go or are carried through the town every year in August.

Anti-racism groups have denounced the presence of “The Savage,” a character meant to represent Belgium’s colonial past who is traditionally played by "a chained and agitated" white man in blackface.

As the town was gearing up for the yearly parade, anti-racism group Brussels Panthers called on UNESCO to scrap the festival from its heritage lists over the character's continued presence.

While UNESCO stopped short of removing the procession from the list, in a written reply to the group it said the Ath parade must conform to a series of fundamental principles, in particular, the "need for mutual respect between communities, groups and individuals."

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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