Protest in Antwerp against mayor’s remarks about Berbers

Summary

An impromptu sit-in was organised yesterday evening in front of Antwerp’s city hall in protest at mayor Bart De Wever’s comments about the city’s Berber community

Parliamentary debate

The Arab political activist and writer Dyab Abou Jahjah led a demonstration outside Antwerp’s town hall yesterday evening calling on mayor Bart De Wever to apologise for negative comments he made about Moroccan Berbers.

About 150 protesters joined in the illegal sit-in on Grote Markt (pictured). “Bart De Wever is targeting a single segment of the population,” said Abou Jahjah. “This is simply about 19th-century racism, and it shouldn’t be allowed to happen anymore. He should retract his comments or resign.”

The protesters represented several left-wing political groups, including Jahjah’s Movement X, which is inspired by the American civil rights leader Malcolm X. Members of the ecological  party Groen and socialists SP.A were also present. Police cordoned off the area and noted the identities of participants, who face a possible fine for joining a demonstration that was organised without a permit.

The sit-in followed a debate in the Flemish parliament in Brussels earlier in the day when De Wever, a leader of the Flemish nationalist party N-VA, was criticised during a heated debate for singling out Berbers as problematic migrants. De Wever made the comments earlier this week in the TV programme Terzake. After referring to problems in the Moroccan community, he said: “Especially Berbers. They form an extremely closed society, with a distrust of government.”

“When the mayor of Antwerp, the largest and most diverse city in Flanders, feels it necessary to stigmatise an entire segment of the population, you can’t just sit back and say nothing,” said Flemish MP Koen Van den Heuvel (CD&V).  

Photo by Jonas Roosens/BELGA

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