‘Not afraid’: Police ask Brussels residents not to disclose raids, so they tweet CATS instead
Belgian police on Sunday requested that media – and social media – keep silent about the then-ongoing special security operation that saw heavily-armed troops and armored vehicles right in the heart of the capital.
Social media users actually complied, but still managed to use their period of confinement purr-ductively.
While it was not immediately clear whether any of the police requests actually advised posting funny pictures of cats, that’s exactly what most people did when the #BrusselsLockdown tag began trending on Twitter.
One of the earliest, seemingly unrelated, tweets in the Brussels panic feed gives a clue as to how this trend soon turned into a feline frenzy.
“Belgian police asks users to post cute cat pics with the hashtag #BrusselsLockdown to show terrorists some love. RT!” jochem maes (@hetjoch), an apparent prankster, tweeted.
Meanwhile, another heavily retweeted post included a photoshopped picture of armored riders buzzing above the ground mounted on “Hovercats.” It said: “BREAKING NEWS: Belgium Police using the new 200mph Hovercat during terrorist operations.”
Hundreds of social media users seemed to have gotten a real kick out of the idea, joining in the cat-astrophically growing stream of pictures under what had once been a useful hashtag for those trying to find out what was really going on in Brussels (before possibly panicking and freaking out).
So instead of watching the APCs and rifle-wielding Belgian troops in central Brussels, the whole nation and those following from afar soon become engrossed in one big game of posting and reposting pics of furry creatures.
There was a more somber tone to some of the posts – which, nevertheless, still contained cats. “Keep the faith and let’s dream about a better World,” @EricDupain tweeted, while @Breedusan simply said: “We aren’t scared.”
The unlikely police-inspired flashmob was a logical release of tension, as social media has been in stress and panic mode since last week’s terrorist attack in Paris, which left over 130 people dead and many Europeans with sense of fear, grief, and insecurity.
Hashtags like #ParisAttacks and #PrayForParis instantly went viral, with people across the world jumping on the bandwagon.
Countless posters also paid tribute to the police dog named Diesel who was killed by gunmen during a fierce shootout with terrorists in Saint-Denis, a suburb of Paris.