Conner Rousseau, leader of the Dutch-speaking Socialist Vooruit party of Belgium, resigned on November 17 after the publication of expletive-ridden remarks he allegedly made to police.
In the early hours of September 1, Rousseau is reported to have ranted at two officers at night who were patrolling the area. His behaviour disturbed them to such an extent they wrote an official report.
It is said that, following the incident, he tried to play down what happened, but as more details emerged his position became untenable.
The details of the events were released by Belgian news outlet Het Nieuwsblad, which said an allegedly inebriated Rousseau told patrolling police officers sarcastically: “So many cops. I feel super safe! Weekend duty for sure?”
Then he allegedly targeted Romani people in his town in a vile outburst, suggesting violence against them, according to the newspaper.
“Those Romani or other gypsies stand here every f*cking day with their mattresses or deep-fryers. Really, those Romani, just beat them up,” he is reported to have told the officers.
“You can’t do f*cking shit with those guys.
“My entire appartement block is racist, and I understand them well. Let’s be honest: it’s always those brown guys. In my opinion, they should be dealt with much more severely,” the Het Nieuwsblad article stated he said, adding: “You should use your baton much more.”
According to the paper, he went on: “I can’t deport all that brown scum out of the country,” and, “Just beat them up, use the truncheon, otherwise you won’t get respect.”
Het Nieuwsblad reported that he then spotted a somewhat overweight punk-rocker with a Mohawk hairstyle and told the police: “That’s unpleasant to look at. Use your truncheon to smack that ugly fatso on his face.”
His friends, having sensed things had got out of hand, apparently tried to usher him away but he resisted. He curbed his tone in talking to the police but still made it clear he thinks they are overpaid, the newspaper wrote.
About one of Rousseau’s female friends who was trying to calm the situation, he allegedly said: “If you want to get a blowjob, you should go to her.”
According to Het Nieuwsblad he finally left, saying: “You know, right?” followed by a whipping motion of an imaginary truncheon.
The alleged incident had been referred to on social media but Rousseau and his party tried to downplay it, saying it was the result of “too much alcohol” and a “deliberate attack from the far-right”.
When one news outlet previously tried to publish the story, it was sued and banned from reporting about it.
Despite both officers wearing body cams, the alleged incident was not brought to general public notice for several weeks until Het Nieuwsblad’s report was published.
Rousseau had gained much popularity within Vooruit as he led the Flemish Socialists to new highs in the polls after poor election results in 2019.
It was his no-nonsense stance on migration that seemed appealing to the wider audience in Belgium but after publication of his reported rant in front of the police, he lost all credibility.
Politicians from all other parties condemned the apparent outburst and many indicated working with Rousseau following it would be problematic.
On Friday, Rousseau then finally resigned. In a post on social media he wrote, “After a long-lasting witch hunt regarding my private life, and a big ugly mistake by me, there is too much noise.”
The surrounding fuss distracts from “the essence”, he wrote: “Our struggle for the people, their wallet, their health, their well-being. To shake up things in this country and to move ahead, to fight against the far-right.”
Despite the fallout, Vooruit continued supporting Rousseau, only condemning his alleged racist remarks as late as November 20 – three days after he resigned.
Merci om van Vooruit opnieuw 1 team te maken.
Merci om Vlaanderen opnieuw te laten geloven in het socialisme.
Merci om altijd de sociale strijd op de eerste plaats te zetten. Ook nu weer. Moedig en verantwoordelijk.
Wij strijden verder. pic.twitter.com/JgvI0xXsqs
— Vooruit (@vooruit_nu) November 17, 2023