Foto: Belga

Concerns after calls to riot are issued on social media

Messages that are doing the rounds on social media are calling on people to join protests against the curfew measures. The messages say that protests are planned for this coming Saturday in several tows and cities including Turnhout, Antwerp and Kortrijk. Under the measures designed to curb the spread of coronavirus any such gatherings would be illegal. Furthermore, in the light of the rioting that has blighted several towns and cities in The Netherlands since a curfew came into force there, there are fears that the same thing could happen here. 

Messages calling on people to gather on the market square in Turnhout (Antwerp Province) and cause trouble on Saturday evening have been sent out on the social media platforms Twitter and Snapchat. The authorities in Turnhout are on the alert not least because the town is just a few kilometres from the Dutch border. The Mayor of Turnhout Paul Van Miert (Flemish nationalist) told VRT Radio 2 that "The police are getting prepared”.

The message reads “Gather on the Grote Markt in Turnhout at 6pm on Saturday 30 January. You can best come dressed in black, bring fireworks, etc with you because we're going turn Turnhout upside f**king down". 

Mayor Van Miert saw the message for the first time on Sunday. He told the VRT that "We imediately launched an investigation. It is not easy to find out who is behind it because it is always screenshots that are shared. But we are taking this seriously as we are near to the Dutch border. Together with the police we are looking at what needs to be done and whether a ban on gatherings should be enforced”.

Over the past few days there has been rioting and looting in several Dutch towns and cities against the 9pm curfew that came into force in The Netherlands on Saturday. The language used in the message also could suggest that it was written by a Dutch person.

"The investigation is still ongoing, and we are still keeping all options open, but it could be that there are people that want to cause trouble here. We don’t have a strict curfew like in The Netherlands.”

In Flanders the curfew doesn’t start until midnight.  

Calls to protest elsewhere

 

Under the hashtag #AmokTegenAvondklok a call is being circulated to protest against the curfew and alleged police violence at Antwerp’s Park Spoor Noord and Antwerp Central Railway Station on 30 January. There have been calls to riot in Kortrijk (West Flanders), while in Genk (Limburg) a call has been issued to for a protest with “smoke bombs and fireworks” during which the protesters plan to “kill the entire city centre” on February 6.

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