Belgian mayor drives Romani campers out with loud music
A group of Romani people who parked their caravans on Sunday near the Belgian town of Landen were woken up on the morning of Wednesday, 16 July with loud rock music. The mayor of Landen hired a DJ to play the music in an effort to get them to leave town.
The Romani people concerned later announced they had left the parking lot and charged the town hall with racism. According to the mayor, they had agreed with the owner of the land to park 14 caravans there until Tuesday.
"Then they said they wouldn't leave and they're there with 30 caravans," said Mayor Gino Debroux. "That's an industrial zone, it's not designed for camping."
The mayor claimed he felt forced to hire a DJ to "try to non-violently get them to stick to the agreement". He also emphasized that the music had not exceeded 95 decibels, which corresponds to the noise of a jackhammer at a distance of 15 meters.
The VTM television station broadcast footage of Romani children happily dancing to the rock music. It went on into the early afternoon, after which the Roma agreed with local police that they would leave.
Jacques Michel, a representative of the Romani community, criticized the mayor. "They started playing music, the mayor of Landen sent them here, we don't like it. We consider his action racist and we definitely are not thrilled by it. Something like this must never happen again, we travelers have already suffered enough in our lives," he complained.
The incident led to a great deal of reaction on social networking sites, including from members of the political party Socialistische Partij Anders, to which the mayor belongs. "What happened in Landen is not in order. It's really not ok," said former Belgian Deputy PM Freya Van den Bossche.
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