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1 Feb, 2021 21:14

Swastikas painted on Belgian PM’s house, authorities blame anti-lockdown protesters

Swastikas painted on Belgian PM’s house, authorities blame anti-lockdown protesters

Seven swastikas have been discovered on the home and mailbox of Belgian PM Alexander De Croo in Brakel. While some have linked the vandalism to a recent demonstration by a right-wing group, no evidence has yet surfaced.

Police blocked off the street near De Croo’s house on Monday morning, cordoning off the areas where the neon green spray paint defaced the Belgian leader’s white walls. As of Monday afternoon, it was still unclear whether the seven symbols had appeared late Sunday night or early Monday morning, and police lacked any leads as to who had put them there.

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The graffiti attack spooked De Croo’s neighbor, who insisted the authorities provide “permanent police surveillance, because we have been afraid for a long time.” His home was also vandalized.

While local media reports appeared to link the incident with a Saturday night protest by nationalist group Vlaanderens Ons Land (‘Flanders, Our Country’), the event’s low turnout – only about 15 demonstrators, allegedly protesting Belgium's lockdown – measured against the dozens of federal and local police officers who had shown up called that explanation into question.

De Croo took office in October after a whopping 652 days without an official government in Belgium – the country’s longest ever period under a “caretaker” regime. He had previously served as acting finance minister.

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Belgium holds the highest coronavirus casualty rate in Europe, with 1,385 people dead with the virus out of every one million residents. Deep-seated division between the French- and Dutch-speaking populations has contributed to stress within the country, whose inhabitants have been pushed to their limits by punishing lockdowns which so far have not come close to stemming the outbreak. 

Both De Croo and his predecessor, interim premier Sophie Wilmes, have been slammed for their handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Multiple legal challenges have been mounted by Belgian citizens in the last six months, with suits filed against Microsoft billionaire and vaccine evangelist Bill Gates, the state of Belgium, disgraced UK epidemiologist Neil Ferguson, and several Belgian virologists. Almost 500 people were arrested on Sunday in the hope of preventing protests against the government’s draconian restrictions on movement and gatherings.

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