- Presidential candidate says city needs more assimilation
- Residents counter with scenic pictures of Brussels on Twitter
The remark made during an interview with Fox News triggered a wave of ironic Twitter postings on Wednesday, with many Brussels residents using the #hellhole hashtag alongside beautiful views of the Belgian capital’s ancient streets and parks, or of its renowned cuisine and artisan beer.
“You go to Brussels. I was in Brussels a long time ago -- 20 years ago -- so beautiful, everything’s so beautiful. It’s like living in a hellhole right now,” Trump said in the interview. The Republican presidential candidate, who has pledged to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico to prevent illegal entry and demanded a ban on Muslims coming into the U.S., also bemoaned the lack of assimilation in European cities.
One Twitter user mocked the comments by appearing to doctor the Wikipedia entry for Dante’s “Inferno” so that it read that the Fourth Circle of Hell, after limbo, lust and gluttony, was in fact Brussels.
To be sure, Trump has form on slamming Europe’s immigration policies. In October, he criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door commitment on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“Frankly, look, Europe’s going to have to handle it,” he said. “But they’re going to have riots in Germany. What’s happening in Germany, I always thought Merkel was, like, this great leader. What she’s done in Germany is insane. It’s insane.”
Trump’s comments came after it emerged that several people connected with the terrorist attacks on Paris in November lived in the Belgian capital. Authorities placed Brussels on virtual lockdown for a few days later that month, closing schools, suspending the public-transport network and ordering bars to shut as police warned of an imminent attack.
‘Hell of a Place’
Citizens in Belgium used that opportunity to aid investigators while finding a comedic outlet during a tense standoff. In the midst of the lockdown, when the police asked residents not to post on social media about ongoing operations to avoid tipping off possible targets of the investigation, people responded by flooding Twitter with pictures of cats alongside the hashtag #BrusselsLockdown.
In the wake of the Paris attacks, Brussels canceled its New Year’s Eve fireworks display and other festivities because authorities warned of a “significant” risk of a terrorist attack. Belgium has the highest number of fighters in Syria or Iraq per capita among western European countries, according to a report from the London-based International Center for the Study of Radicalisation last year.
Nonetheless, Brussels residents, many of whom are non-Belgians who work for EU institutions and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, said they didn’t recognize the city Trump portrayed.
“We are not living in a #hellhole Mr. Trump, but in a hell of a place,” tweeted Belgian economist Geert Noels.