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Brussels fireman hit by complaint over use of racist slur

Brussels firefighter and union spokesperson Eric Labourdette. © Belga

A Brussels firefighter is facing a racism complaint and accusations of using racist slurs to call out members of the Brussels parliament on social media.

Brussels MP Hicham Talhi has filed a complaint against Eric Labourdette, firefighter and spokesman for the SLPF/VSOA union, over a Facebook post in which he used the French derogatory term “bonobos” to call out MPs.

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In the Facebook post, dated 21 May and which appears to have been since deleted, Labourdette said he was “curious” to see Brussels MPs’ reaction to a widely circulated video showing residents hitting and kicking two police officers as they pin a man to the ground in the municipality of Anderlecht.

“For me, these are racist statements. For me, when you liken people to monkeys, when you compare them to animals, it’s racism,” Talhi told RTBF.

In a Facebook post, Talhi further condemned Labourdette’s “latest racist comments,” saying his move to file a complaint was necessary to stop impunity against racism.

Labourdette’s post on 21 May, of which screenshots were obtained by Le Soir, mark the second time this year that the outspoken unionist used the same derogatory term to reject accusations of racism within the fire department.

As anti-racist protest in the US begin spilling across the world, Talhi said that decisive action was needed against all manifestations of the “sickening ideology” of racism.

Reacting to the complaint, Labourdette said: “I said the parliamentarians, I did not target a person of colour, of race, of colour (sic) or anything,” adding that in using the word he was not equating the MPs to monkeys.

In French, the word “bonobo” is used as a slur against black people, with their use by French police officers and French university students sparking outrage after being made public.

The SLPF/VSOA union told Le Soir they had asked Labourdette to “clean up his [Facebook] wall” and to “stop writing these kinds of amalgams.”

According to Bruzz, the firefighter risks a sanction or expulsion from the union.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times

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