Monday, 15 February 2021
Far-right Vlaams Belang party leader Tom Van Grieken took out pepper spray, a forbidden weapon in Belgium, during an interview with Flemish television channel VTM on Sunday.
Van Grieken showcased it in reaction to the prosecution of members of the far-right student organisation ‘Schild & Vrienden’, including Vlaams Belang’s member of the federal parliament Dries Van Langenhove.
Over two years ago, an investigation by the Flemish public broadcaster VRT’s documentary series Pano revealed that they had committed offences against the law against racist speech, the law against historical negationism (denying the Holocaust) and the firearms law.
Reacting to the latter part of the sentence, Van Grieken said: “If it’s about illegal possession of weapons, you should convict a lot of people,” pointing to the little bottle and calling for it to be legalised.
Van Grieken added that he believes that “every woman in Flanders should have pepper spray in her handbag” and announced that his party will submit a proposal to legalise pepper spray.
In response to the racist remarks made by several members of ‘Schild & Vrienden’, Van Grieken repeated that he finds the memes that were shared “horrible” and “grotesque” and that he would not tolerate them within his party.
However, he highlighted that the messages in question were shared “in private”, adding: “One cannot take action against that as an employer.”
The Public Prosecutor’s Office of East Flanders is demanding the prosecution of nine members for violating the anti-racism law and also, for some, denial of the Holocaust, De Morgen reported on Friday.
Five of these members of Schild & Vrienden, who are being prosecuted, also have direct ties with the far-right party, however, Van Grieken said he assumes that Schild & Vrienden leader Van Langenhove will be acquitted.
The Brussels Times