Police will turn out in force for a visit today by controversial Dutch politicians Geert Wilders to the Antwerp branch of Vlaams Belang (VB), according to the national agency for risk assessment OCAD. The event has been classified as level three, the second-highest of all, and he same level applied in Brussels after the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015.
The visit by the right-wing politician is aimed at stoking up support for Vlaams Belang in the run-up to the municipal elections in November. Antwerp has always been a stronghold for VB, but the party has seen support slipping under the administration of Bart De Wever and his Flemish nationalist N-VA party.
Level three risk is the second-highest of all, but Ocad stressed it will only be applied for the location and duration of the meeting. Wilders’ appearances invariably attract opponents as well as supporters, with the accompanying risk of clashes.
Wilders’ latest controversy surrounds his organisation of cartoon competition featuring drawing of Mohammed, considered blasphemous by Muslims. The idea is hardly original, of course: a feature of cartoon of Mohammed carried by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005 led to protests worldwide, including threats to newspapers and cartoonists, and eventually to the murder of 12 people in an attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo – which also published the cartoons – in Paris in January 2015.
In the meantime, following protests, Wilders has withdrawn his competition.