‘Kevin the Crusader’: Police officer with Templar cross stirs Belgium

‘Kevin the Crusader’: Police officer with Templar cross stirs Belgium
A police officer with a Templar cross on his bulletproof vest has found himself in hot water in Belgium. Authorities say the symbol may be linked to extreme right-wing groups, while many on social media support ‘Kevin the Crusader.’

The dispute in Couvin, Belgium, a town of 13,000 people, started on Thursday when local media made several reports about a police officer wearing a Templar cross on his bulletproof vest. The media immediately linked the cross to extremist groups who sometimes use it as a symbol of their fight against Muslims.

The story quickly became popular, with images of the ‘knight,’ dubbed ‘Kevin the Crusader,’ widely shared on social media. La Nouvelle Gazette newspaper identified the chevalier as Kevin François.  

‘The Templar’ caught the attention of the local authorities, who met Friday over the issue. Two additional meetings are scheduled for Monday, Belgian RTBF reported, citing Raymond Douniaux, the mayor of Couvin. 

“The officer has already been informed that he will be punished for ethical misconduct,” Douniaux said, adding that there should be “no place for the extreme right, neither within the police nor among the communal staff.”

According to Douniaux, the policeman “assured [the authorities] that he has no connections with the extreme right or other sectarian movements.”

“He [the officer] said… that he has been wearing the badge since January 1, 2016 and that no one had ever made the slightest remark [about the badge]… even if the policeman says he has no sympathy with the extreme right, we will investigate…”

Local police head Virginie Wuilmart told Belgian media that “wearing unauthorized badges is forbidden by the code of ethics.”

“The badge can be ambiguous as it may have different possible meanings, and the police officer may be punished,” she added.

News about ‘Kevin the Crusader’ divided people on social media, with the majority taking the side of ‘the Templar.’

“I’m not Catholic... but I totally support this policeman today, I’m a crusader, I’m a Templar!” wrote one user, while another added that authorities and media “dragged the officer into the mud by accusing him of extremism and publishing his pictures.”

Some people noticed that the town of Couvin has a cross on its coat of arms. “Then the mayor of Couvin is a right extremist?” one asked.
Others suggested that the police officer may be a “noble” descendent of the Catholic military order.

“It is quite possible that this policeman is a descendant of the Knights Templar and wears this badge because he is a part of the nobility.”

There were also those who supported the decision of the authorities, saying that a policeman “does not have to wear any [other] badges on his uniform,” except the police one.

“A police uniform… should only display neutrality, regardless of the opinion of the person [who wears it],” added one person.

The Knights Templar, a religious military order at the time of the Crusades, was originally founded in the 12th century to protect Christians. After the order gained enormous power, it was accused of blasphemy, and members were brutally persecuted.