A youth from a “migrant background”, attacked Hendrik Keuleers and left him for dead last year.
Keuleers, who lives in the Belgian city of Ghent, is known for his window posters against bull fights, Spain’s prime minister and Islam’s treatment of animals.
It is not the first time that Keuleers is being singled out. Belgian media say his house has been terrorised for years after he started criticising Islam with self-made window posters.
Last year it resulted in the vicious attack, during which he was kicked off his bicycle. After the violent incident it did not stop some from reporting Keuleers for encouraging “racism and violence”.
The 87-year-old was even charged for “provoking violence” and “incitement to racism” but the case was soon dropped. The threats to Keuleers and the destruction of his property have however continued unabated.
He lives in a quiet street on the edge of the Prinsenhof district in Ghent. Many years ago he owned the Tap en Tepel catering business.
His little posters speak out against everything that annoys Hendrik: Animal suffering, especially the ritual slaughter of animals, is invariably denounced. Even tourists come to look at his windows.
But because of his opinions, Hendrik’s windows were smashed, flower boxes were destroyed, and last year he was kicked unconscious in front of his door. The perpetrator of that violence was put in an institution for a while, after he was caught on closed circuit camera but soon released.
“This is the world upside down”, his neighbours say. “This is also supposed to be progressive Ghent. But free speech is restricted here if it concerns sensitive issues.
“Every week, groups of Arab youths come to stone Hendrik’s windows. That remains unpunished. What is the next step then? What needs to be done here for firm action?”
The neighbours – and they are many – want peace in their street to return, and above all, that Hendrik is left alone.
“No, we do not necessarily agree with everything that Hendrik hangs on his windows here. But is that a reason to physically attack the man? To destroy his property? Siegfried Bracke and Guy Verhofstadt also live in this district. We also do not necessarily agree with everything they say. May they also be attacked?”
Hendrik is often called a difficult person, especially when it comes to animals. Spaniards who used to come into the business and were not opposed to bullfighting, were not served.
Hendrik could easily put an end to the attacks himself, by removing the posters and slogans. But he refuses, in principle. “Yes, I use my posters to provoke discussion and controversy. Is not that allowed, in rebellious Ghent? Can not I say what many people think but do not dare say? May I not express what is bothering me in our society?”
Hendrik has even had bulletproof glass put in place, but even that has already been cracked. “It is quite amazing that it all costs so much”, he says laconically.
Video footage of the incident shows how Keuleers was attacked by a young man with a migrant background. The attacker spat at the old man and kicked him off his bicycle. Keuleers fell down unconscious and was left for dead.