The leader of the N-VA fraction in the federal parliament, Peter De Roover, has demanded a public apology from the organisers of the Pukkelpop music festival after security forced the removal of all Flemish flags after an incident involving climate activist Anuna De Wever.
De Wever, one of the leaders of the school truancy movement in favour of action on climate change, was booed from the stage during a climate demonstration, and later harassed in the festival ground, when friends with whom she was camping received death threats.
De Wever (photo) has been one of the driving forces behind the movement which saw thousands of school students marching in the streets of Belgian cities every Thursday during the last term of 2018-2019, protesting at the lack of action on the part of the elected authorities on the issue of mitigating climate change.
At Pukkelpop, the annual music festival in Limburg province, a Clap for Climate event had been organised, but when 18-year-old De Wever took the stage she was loudly booed. Later, in the middle of the festival ground, she alleged she had been threatened by young men bearing images of the Flemish flag, which depicts a lion rampant in black on a yellow ground.
“We are not prepared to accept such behaviour at a festival,” said Pukkelpop spokesperson Frederik Luyten. “If steps have to be taken, we will do so.”
“Your organisation is criminalising me and countless Flemings, by linking us with the Nazi regime,” De Roover posted on his Facebook page. “On the next occasion when I hang a black and yellow Flemish Lion on my house, thanks to your organisation people will think I’m a supporter of National Socialism, or the collaboration with the Hitler regime.”
In the meantime, about 20 flags have been confiscated. In this case, the ban refers to flags where the lion has black claws – the official version has a lion with red claws – as the flag is allegedly connected to the extremist Flemish movement, which Pukkelpop refers to as “a collaboration flag”.
After the booing at the organised event, De Wever said her friends were the subject of aggression by youths carrying Flemish flags, who opened up some tents at night, seemingly looking for her. In another tent, meanwhile, she slept peacefully, she told De Standaard.
“I myself don’t know anything about it, but my friends told me about it this morning,” she said. “The security people had to be called. I’ve had negative reactions before, but this is going too far. Especially since my friends have had to suffer. This way of behaving is just not okay.”
Meanwhile De Roover has demanded an open apology from the Pukkelpop organiser, former socialist candidate Chokri Mahassine. “I expect you in the name of your organisation to apologise publicly to me and to all the other people who would raise the black and yellow flag, and that you declare in public the totally unhistoric choice to refer to this flag mistakenly as a collaboration flag.”