Mobile phone footage shows a gang brutally beat a man, hurling homophobic slurs. (Screen capture via Twitter)
Footage which has alarmed LGBT+ activists in northern Belgium shows a group of boys barricading a street in broad daylight before pinning their victim down, hurling homophobic insults and violently punching them.
A week on since the video, of an attack in Leuven, went viral on Twitter, an investigation by Het Laatste Nieuws found that the perpetrators are tied to a gang called “Criminal Justice” who “hunt” queer people while proudly broadcasting their attacks onto social media.
Via Telegram, the group reportedly chat to around 600 other members who revel in seeing LGBT+ people being pummelled live on camera, chat logs seen by the outlet showed, with the 12 August clip being just one of a horrid array of incidents of violence.
Victim of anti-LGBT+ Belgium gang: ‘I had to get on my knees and apologise.’
Reporters found that the Telegram group is clogged with messages glorifying violently attacking LGBT+ people, while others actively search online for new victims. One message read: “Gays must be slaughtered.”
Around 400 photographs and video recordings are on the chat, the outlet said, including the Leuven attack, and allegedly include incidents in Blankenberge, Antwerp and Roeselare.
Attackers said they were willing to use knives and firearms, the chat logs showed, while testimonies from victims have described the Criminal Justice playbook as once of humiliation and psychological abuse.
One victim told HetLaatste Nieuws that in Groenplaats, Antwerp, he and a friend were targeted by the group. “A little further down the road from us, two men were playing loud music,” he said.
“When we left, they suddenly started to chase us. And a little later I was threatened via Instagram.
“I agreed to talk to them, which I shouldn’t have done. They threatened me badly.
“I had to get on my knees and apologise. What if I hadn’t? Then I would have been beaten badly.”
More chat records show that those involved in the Leuven attack – where the perpetrators shouted the Moroccon anti-gay slur “zemmel” at the victim – believed the victims involved were gay.