Belgian Mayor Denies Deliberate Racism

The centrepiece of the withdrawn poster Credit: Aalst Council

THE Belgian town of Aalst is no stranger to controversy and accusations of racism since in 2019 its annual carnival was withdrawn from UNESCO’s Cultural Heritage list because of its mockery of Jews.

Whilst the town argues that this is just good fun with no harm meant, many were appalled by the appearance of ‘fake nazis’ and ‘hook nosed mannequins representing Orthodox Jews.

The latest lapse of good taste has seen an anti-littering poster complained about as it features three young black boys surrounded by cigarette butts with the legend “At every cool spot in Aalst something filthy is spoiling the fun.”

The poster divided social media with many decrying it as being blatant racism whilst it also attracted a significant amount of racist comments to make matters worse.

Speaking to VTR Belgium, Mayor Christoph D’Haese who represents a ‘nationalist’ party said “First of all, I want to stress that I did not see the images beforehand. There was agreement on the project, but I had not yet seen the precise elaboration.

“It is the municipal communication and environment departments that are responsible for the elaboration. I will speak to them about this, because although I am sure it was not their intention, I can understand that the message could be completely misinterpreted.”

He added “The focus should be on cigarette butts. The intention was to create a confrontational campaign because the amount of litter has increased by 60 per cent in the last year.

“In itself, there is nothing wrong with the picture and the text, it depends on how you look at it. But I realise that the picture can be taken out of context. It is certainly not intended to stigmatise any particular population group, quite the contrary.”

The poster was immediately removed from the town’s streets, but the mixed messages caused by the photo has not helped Aalst’s image.

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Written by

John Smith

Married to Ophelia in Gibraltar in 1978, John has spent much of his life travelling on security print and minting business and visited every continent except Antarctica. Having retired several years ago, the couple moved to their house in Estepona and John became a regular news writer for the EWN Media Group taking particular interest in Finance, Gibraltar and Costa del Sol Social Scene. Currently he is acting as Editorial Consultant for the paper helping to shape its future development. Share your story with us by emailing, by calling +34 951 38 61 61 or by messaging our Facebook page