Marc Van Ranst under police protection following threats from extreme-right
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    Marc Van Ranst under police protection following threats from extreme-right

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    Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst has been under police protection for several weeks after the police became aware of plans to cause “harm” from the extreme-right, he said in an interview with Techmag.

    The police had information about “tangible plans to cause harm” from right-wing extremist sympathisers, Van Ranst said in an episode of an interview series by blogger Magali De Reu.

    A police car has been driving around Van Ranst’s home for several weeks now, according to him, adding that he rejected the proposal to station a police car at his home.

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    The police zone of Mechelen-Willebroek, where Van Ranst lives, have told De Morgen that they could not provide information about safety measures surrounding Van Ranst.

    Van Ranst said that he has been keeping an eye on the extreme-right for over 30 years now, and that there is usually a lot of talk, but not much action. “But nowadays, you can’t be too careful,” he added.

    On social media, Van Ranst regularly criticises party members of the rightwing N-VA and far-right Vlaams Belang parties.

    “I am often told that my statements are political in tone and are in line with the views of (far-left) PVDA. But no one talks about the conversations I have had with liberals or Christian democrats. And so what? Surely you do not have to be a politician to do politics in 2020,” said Van Ranst.

    Despite the threats, the virologist said he is not planning on disappearing to the background, especially not while the coronavirus crisis is still ongoing.

    “Fear is a bad counsellor, but fortunately, I have grown thick skin in recent years. What’s more, since the pandemic outbreak, my faith in mankind is stronger than ever,” Van Ranst said.

    “Over the past few months, I have seen so many wonderful initiatives from different corners of the country that bear witness to solidarity. That is the best response to the polarisation in our society,” he added.

    Maïthé Chini
    The Brussels Times