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Coronavirus critics write to mayors declaring themselves 'sovereign citizens'
In at least four municipalities across Flanders, residents have sent their mayors letters declaring themselves sovereign citizens in protest against coronavirus measures.
Thought to have been written by a Dutch conspiracy theorist, the identical letters are titled “Termination of Authorization to Govern”. De Morgen reports they have been received by the mayors of Kuurne and Wielsbeke in West Flanders, and Begijnendijk and Haacht in Flemish Brabant.
“I take back the autonomy and full authority over myself,” read the letters, which are four pages long and contain reasoning that legal experts say makes little sense.
“You cannot simply place yourself outside the law,” said Kati Verstrepen, president of the Human Rights League. "Imagine what criminals would do then. Or people who say: the traffic rules don't apply to me."
Steven Swiggers, the mayor of Haacht, agrees: “I’m afraid that these people have not thought through what it means to 'detach' themselves from the state. Then you are without gas and electricity. You cannot call on the emergency services. Your rubbish will no longer be collected. Sorry, this is crazy.”
The letters have been appearing since October, with some municipalities receiving more than one and a likelihood that there are more that have not yet been reported.
In large blocks of text, the writer declares that their rights are being violated by measures meant to contain the spread of Covid-19, such as an obligation to wear a facemask that the letter says imposes “a hellish reality” not based on any “factual basis”.
They claim that mere discussions of the possibility of mandatory vaccination instill fear so great it is tantamount to “mental torture in accordance with Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights,” saying that life for them has become “a constant struggle for survival”.
For this reason, they write, the senders find it necessary to “withdraw their votes and authorisations at a municipal, provincial and national level” to the extent that “no one is allowed to act for me or on my behalf any more”.
It is unclear who authored the letters, though a web search for its title leads to Burgerfront, a Dutch action group that describes itself as “a fast-growing organisation of entrepreneurs, scientists, media people, lawyers and others who look at developments in society with a concerned eye.”
Their Facebook page, which has over 3,000 followers, is rife with conspiracy theories surrounding Covid-19 and the vaccine, including a story about a man who collapsed on the toilet and hit his head, which is suggested to be a vaccine injury, and complaints that “nowadays you can't buy colourful and juicy tomatoes or strawberries, but only pale watery extracts of them”.
Their online store sells “legal toolkits” for €29.95 that purport to contain “all the materials you need to terminate your trust”, including a letter by the same title as the ones sent to Belgian mayors.
None of the mayors want to share information about who sent the letters, which are identical except for a few lines where the senders fill in their own name and address.
The letters threaten legal action if the secrecy of who sent it is violated, and the quotes shared with press come from anonymised copies.
“It looks like a kind of chain letter,” said Mayor Bert Ceuleman of Begijnendijk. “Although I have no idea who is behind it. In my municipality, there was never any protest against the coronavirus rules. The vaccination rate is extremely high: 97%.”
Mayor Francis Benoit from Kuurne said the letters were concerning. “The letters show that under the skin there is anger bubbling up against authority,” Benoit said. “It used to be against 'Brussels' but now it seems to be general. I find that worrying.”