Police in Belgium are investigating the appearance of anti-LGBTQ stickers showing up in a few places in big Flemish cities, like Antwerp and Ghent, last weekend.
The stickers show a rainbow flag, symbolising the LGBTQ community, crossed with a black stripe and the text “just normal” (“gewoon normaal” in Dutch), and were reported by Fleur Pierets, a Flemish writer and LGBTQ activist, who posted about them on her Instagram account.
The police confirmed to several Flemish media that an official report was drawn up by their Diversity Unit, which will also conduct the investigation, according to police spokesperson Willem Migom.
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“We have already received several reports since [Sunday morning]. I cannot give an exact number yet, but our Diversity Cell is now compiling all these reports,” Migon told VRT.
“An official report will also be made, not only for hate crime but also for vandalism, because the stickers are also found on shop windows and street furniture,” he added.
For how long the stickers have been around in Antwerp is not clear but several pictures of them were already posted to social media platform Reddit by user ‘u/CurryKruidenKetchup’ a few weeks ago.
They have been spotted in various places in Antwerp, mainly in the north of the city, around the Seefhoek, Dam Square and Park Spoor Noord.
In the meantime, the Flemish association of LGBTQ umbrella organisations, Çavaria, also received several reports of the stickers this weekend, not only in Antwerp but also in the East-Flanders province in Ghent.
“We are going to investigate what exactly is going on and how we can respond appropriately,” Eef Heylighen, spokesperson for Çavaria, told De Standaard.
The stickers are reminiscent of the LGBTQ-free zones in Poland, where the pro-government newspaper Gazeta Polska distributed stickers that people could place on their windows or shops to make it clear that people identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender were not welcome.
Since March 2019, more than 100 Polish regions, provinces and municipalities have declared themselves free from what they call the “LGBT ideology,” which led to the European Union condemning Poland.
Recently, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced in a letter to five provincial governors that she is freezing €126 million from the EU’s Covid Fund that was meant for Poland as long as the rights of the LGBTQ community are violated.
Anyone who comes across the stickers can report this (anonymously) to the Antwerp police via firstname.lastname@example.org.