In the Flemish city of Mechelen, in the north of Belgium, over 1,000 Flemish nationalists held a demonstration in support of freedom of speech. The catalyst for the demonstration was the recent conviction of four members of the nationalist organization Voorpost by the Penal Court of First Instance. The reason? For simply displaying a banner that bore the slogan Stop Islamisation. According to the left-wing judge, the banner was an “incitement to hatred and discrimination”. Three nationalists received six months in prison, but are currently on parole, while a fourth individual was convicted to serve six months effective in prison. An appeal in defence of the prosecuted has been submitted.
Mechelen is a city well-known for the strong influence of left-wing and liberal ideology, as well as Freemasonry. Supporters of such ideologies work in collaboration with one another, as they are anti-nationalist and are strongly represented in the judiciary and policing system of Mechelen. Individuals and groups representing these circles have before tried to intimidate nationalists prior to the rally by shouting out to the demonstrators and criticising the anti-immigration message of their protest. Naturally, Voorpost ignored the hecklers. The banner was again presented and was carried by four nationalists in “prison clothing”.
The demonstrators took to the streets with the broad support of the strong right-wing nationalist movement in Flanders. Voorpost also had the support of nationalist student movements such as the Nationalist Student Association (NSV) and the Catholic Flemish Students Union (KVHV), as well as from the organisers of the annual nationalist festival IJzerwake (this year’s festival will take place on the 29th August this year). Voorpost also has branches in the Netherlands and South Africa, hence the presence of large Dutch delegations being present to support the Flemish nationalists. The biggest nationalist party in Belgium, the Vlaams Belang, was also present with its popular young president, Tom Van Grieken and several MPs, such as Filip Dewinter.
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Mass immigration has hit Belgium hard, with more than 50% of newborns in cities such as Brussels and Antwerp being of non-Belgian origin. The terror attacks in Belgium in 2016, in which 34 people were killed by radical Islamist terrorists, have shifted public opinion towards the political right. The radical nationalist Vlaams Belang currently polls at 26%, while the moderate nationalists of the New Flemish Alliance (NVA) are polled 21%. If this trend continues, Belgian nationalist MPs will have a full majority in the regional Flemish Parliament in 2024. A tougher stance against immigration and a desire for stronger border controls is what both parties demand. Such policies are what currently draws in increasing support from the Flemish people.
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