A demonstration against “left-wing politics” has been banned from going forward in the Flemish city of Mechelen over concerns over the coronavirus and disturbances to the public order.
The demonstration was launched on Facebook by an unidentified group who is suspected of having links with another who organised a demonstration in the coastal city of Ostend where racist slogans were chanted.
The Facebook event, which called for people to gather against “left-wing policies that were destroying everything,” saw some 8,000 people say they would attend.
“Many Flemish people are tired of being lied to and manipulated,” organisers wrote, according to De Standaard. “Left-wing policies are destroying everything.”
News of the interest sparked by the protest led authorities in Mechelen to ask organisers for details on how they planned to reduce risks linked to the coronavirus pandemic, since the expected turnout largely surpassed the current limit of 400 people allowed to gather outdoors.
But Mechelen Mayor Alexander Vandersmissen said the demonstration had been banned after the organisation failed to produce the plans, a decision which also came after local police issued a negative advice on the protest.
“The risk of disruption to the public order is too great,” Vandersmissen said. “As a mayor, it is impossible to let that pass.”
Police reportedly said that organisers of the protest in Mechelen were linked with those who led a protest in Ostend in August, during which protesters marched along the beachfront chanting “our people first” as well as Islamophobic, xenophobic and racist slogans.
The demonstration in Ostend is currently under investigation by the federal anti-discrimination body Unia, who called the gathering “worrying” and said that lines “had been crossed.”
“Comparing people several times and in groups with animals, even vermin, is crossing a line,” Unia director Els Keytsman told De Standaard.
Ostend authorities had reportedly also banned the gathering, which took place on 1 September, but police present on the scene still allowed the around 300 protesters to march.
Organisers of the protest which was recently banned in Mechelen said that they planned to organise more protest in other Flemish cities.