Raids on JD Sports stores connected to racist rant by shop manager?

During the past week two Belgian stores of the British-owned sportswear chain JD Sports have been attacked by groups of masked raiders. There is a possibility that the raids could be linked to a video that was posted on social media in which the manager of a JD Sports shop in Liège is filmed speaking in racially discriminatory terms.

The film was posted on social media last Sunday (3 November). It shows a female manager of the Liège store asking her staff to form three queues to check for eventual stolen goods or cash. In her request she asks the queues to be formed according to ethnic origin. “Arabs” (people with North African roots), “Gwères” (a French slang word for white Europeans) and "Macaques" (a highly racist French term for black people) were to line up separately. The staff at the store reacted with distain and anger to the manger’s racist outburst.

The film was recorded at the end of October. The woman has since been sacked and the police and the Judicial Authorities have opened a criminal investigation into incitement to discrimination, hatred and violence against a group or a community. If found guilty the woman risk a one-year prison sentence and a fine.

The equal opportunities centre Unia has also received several complaints about the incident and has opened an investigation. ,

A Unia spokesperson told journalists that "In this kind of situation we contact the company concerned to get its version of events. We then ensure that the damage is put right and that the incident doesn’t happen again. It is only if dialogue fails that we can take legal action. In such cases prison sentence of up to three years can be given”.

The film of the racist incident attracted a great deal of response.

A few days after it had been published online another branch of JD Sports in Liège was trashed and looted by five masked men. A day later JD Sports’ store on the Nieuwstraat in Brussels as also attacked. The raiders stole clothing and the Brussels Judicial Authorities have opened a theft investigation. Social media posts about the two raids refer to the racist incident at JD Sports in Liège at the end of October.

A branch of the store have also been looted in Amsterdam. However, it is unclear whether this is in anyway connected to the racist incident in Liège.

A JD Sports shop in London was looted at the end of October. However, this was before footage of the incident in Liège had been posted online.