Belgian town blasts music to drive Roma away

BRUSSELS Wed Jul 16, 2014 8:43am EDT

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A group of Roma camped by a Belgian town faced a rude awakening on Wednesday: the mayor ordered that they be blasted with music to drive them away.

The Roma had arrived on Sunday in Landen, some 50 km (30 miles) east of the Belgian capital of Brussels. They agreed with a landowner to park 14 caravans there until Tuesday, according to Landen mayor Gino Debroux.

"Since then, they've said they won't leave and they're there with 30 caravans," Debroux told Reuters by telephone. "This is an industrial site and is not designed for camping."

Debroux said the group's refusal to leave had led him to hire a DJ to play music from Wednesday morning, starting around 9 a.m.

"This is a way of putting pressure on them. It was very difficult to negotiate with the gypsy king, as he called himself," Debroux said. "It's a non-violent method to ask them to come to an agreement."

Debroux said the music had been limited to a maximum 95 decibels, equivalent to the sound of a pneumatic drill from 50 feet (15 meters) away.

Local media said that the DJ kicked off his set with Dire Straits' "Sultans of Swing". Belgian television showed Roma children dancing to the music.

"I want to thank the mayor," said one camp resident. "It's very nice that he sent a DJ for us to have a party."

Music played until shortly after midday. The Roma then agreed with the police to leave by Thursday.

The stunt led to a stream of reactions on social media, including some from fellow members of Debroux's socialist Sp.a party.

"Not OK, what happened in Landen. Really not OK," said former minister Freya Van den Bossche.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Larry King)

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