Leuven mayor Mohamed Ridouani (sp.a) has refused to apologise after refusing permission for a demonstration organised by a group protesting violence against women.
This past Wednesday was the International Day Against Violence Against Women, and to mark the occasion, the action group Campagne Rosa organised peaceful demonstrations in 11 towns and cities in Flanders.
Permission was given in all of them, except Leuven. Police explained that the Covid-19 situation in the city meant that all demonstrations were banned during the month of November, with no exceptions.
The group were surprised. “We received permission everywhere else, but not in Leuven,” said Anja Deschoemacker of Campagne Rosa. “Leuven claims to be a city with a progressive city council and then they ban our action, incomprehensibly.”
The group decided to ignore the ban, and went ahead with their action on a square outside of the city ring-road.
“That was done in a corona-safe way,” Deschoemacker explained. “Everyone was at least two metres apart, we wore masks and hand gel was available.”
But neither those conditions nor the remote location were enough, and police moved in to break up the gathering. The main organiser was issued a fine of €750.
“We demand that Mayor Ridouani revoke this fine and apologise to all women. This is incomprehensible,” she said. “In the meantime, we are going to start a campaign asking for letters of protest to be sent to the city council, as well as starting a collection to be able to pay the fine, if it is not withdrawn.”
The VRT contacted Ridouani’s office, and were told, “It was proposed to Campagne Rosa for their action to take place in December, but they did not want to do that. As for the withdrawal of the fine, the mayor cannot do that, as it now a matter for the public prosecutor.”
Officials in the mayor’s office declined to respond to the question of an apology from Ridouani to the group.