Lokeren: Tensions between ethnic and immigrant communities

In Lokeren, a town in East Flanders, there were a couple of incidents that sparked tensions between the ethnic and immigrant communities. On Saturday night a man shot a group of Moroccan youth, saying he felt threated by them.

On Tuesday a 52 year old teacher of Dutch and English, Christine De Brouwer, was attacked by immigrant youth. De Brouwer is married to Patrick Trienpont, Lokeren's chief of police.

Towards the end of the afternoon she came to the school to hand in some paperwork when she was stopped at the entrance by a dozen immigrant youth. One of them called her a whore, and in the end they let her pass.

When she came back after about ten minutes they did not let her through. "The boy again called her a whore and said that her mother was a whore too," says Trienpont. When the teacher told the boy that something was wrong with his upbringing he started attacking her. The rest of the group looked on and did not intervene, but rather, according to Trienpont, ran off when De Brouwer started to lose blood.

De Brouwer was interviewed on the Belgian media, giving her story of how she fought with the kid. She suffers a torn lip, three broken teeth and a bruised back.

It is not clear what caused the attack. "My wife wore a top with spaghetti-bands. Maybe that didn't meet with his approval. It can also be that the offender knew that she is connected through me to the police. Or the boy didn't like the fact that a woman told him off," Trienpont sums up the possibilities.

The boy, who is not a student at the school, is still on the loose. The police are looking for him, but according to the police chief they have their hands full with the shooting incident.

The immigrant community wanted to organize a protest march to protest the shooting incident, but the mayor of Lokeren, Filip Anthuenis, decided to deny it.

Anthuenis regrets the violent incidents of this past week and says the police have been doing a good job. The police responded to the shooting incident immediately and arrested the shooter ten minutes after the shooting. "It should be emphasized once again that there were no indications by this incident that the offender had racist motives. I would like to call on all Lokeren residents to have full trust in the police and the judiciary." he says.

Regarding the protest march he says, "There are namely indications that a number of people have other goals than to peacefully protest. We also have indications that some people want to use this protest to cash in on it politically." Besides, he adds, with father's day it is an important weekend for the city and it is necessary to have quiet.

The father of the shooting incident victim as well as several representatives within the Moroccan community has expressed agreement with the mayor's decision. On Friday a moment of silence will be held in the mosque before the Friday prayers.

Anthuenis also banned wedding processions though Lokeren this Saturday. The atmosphere is too tense for it, the mayor thinks.

Source: HLN 1, 2 (Dutch), Elsevier (Dutch)

See also: Lokeren: Moroccans shot

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