Bart De Wever, the leader of the Flemish rightwing N-VA party and mayor of the city of Antwerp, has apologised for his Facebook ad about not enforcing fines for people sitting on a bench in light of the new coronavirus (Covid-19).
“There are things in the ministerial decree that I do not want to enforce because I cannot explain them,” said De Wever last week on national radio. “It is not allowed for someone to play basketball on their own, but physical activity is encouraged. And resting on a bench is forbidden? Sorry, I am not going to enforce that,” he added.
Later, he received a lot of criticism for a Facebook advertisement, which showed De Wever sitting on a bench, with his earlier statement “Resting on a bench is forbidden? Sorry, I am not going to enforce that.” written on the picture.
On Monday, he apologised for the advertisement, saying it was “not a good ad, I admit it” as it sparked the wrong debate, “namely that we should not follow the rules,” De Wever said on the television programme Terzake.
“That is not the debate. The debate is about the legality of rules and fines. If you sit alone on a bench today, and do not do anything that could endanger public health, you could still be fined €250,” he said, maintaining that such fines have no legal basis.
“Mea culpa voor advertentie met bankje, we gaan wettelijke maatregelen handhaven en boetes geven die standhouden.”@Bart_DeWever excuseert zich, maar waarschuwt voor draconische maatregelen in stedelijke context #terzaketv pic.twitter.com/LKR8H752a6
— Terzake (@terzaketv) April 13, 2020
Translation: “Mea culpa for the advertisement with the bench, we’re going to enforce legal measures and impose fines that will hold.”Bart De Wever apologises, but warns against draconian measures in urban context.”
He said that most people do their best to respect the measures, despite the setback over the Easter weekend, but added that Antwerp is a city of 500,000 people, pointing out that many of them live in small apartments, often with children, often poor and poorly housed.
“If you start enforcing draconian measures now, I’ll tell you what will happen. You’ll get images you don’t want to see,” he said, referring to the clash between local communities in the Brussels’ municipality of Anderlecht and the police on Saturday, following the death of a 19-year-old who fled from a coronavirus check.
“I am sorry that that ad gave the wrong impression. Mea culpa,” De Wever added.
The Brussels Times