The mayor of the Brussels district of Molenbeek on Wednesday said far-right extremists have been banned from holding a planned anti-Islam rally in the troubled neighborhood, as the city remains on edge after last week's suicide attacks.
Members of the French far-right youth group Generation Identitaire had posted a message on their website asking supporters to descend on Molenbeek Saturday and march under the banner: "Let's expel the Islamists!" The impoverished immigrant neighborhood of Molenbeek has long been a hotbed of extremism and the prime suspect in November's Paris terror attacks was arrested there earlier this month, just meters from his family home.
Molenbeek Mayor Francoise Schepmans said the decision to ban the demonstration came after talks with police and other district mayors. "If we had let it happen, there could have been clashes," Schepmans told Agence France-Presse (AFP), amid fears the protest could trigger angry counter-demonstrations in the largely Muslim meighborhood. In a sign of the simmering tensions in the still grieving capital, riot police fired water cannons last weekend to disperse far-right football hooligans who shouted anti-immigrant slogans and disrupted mourners at a shrine for victims of the Brussels attacks. A total of 32 people were killed in the March 22 suicide bombings at the Brussels airport and a metro station. The attacks were claimed by DAESH.