Challenging Video of Child with Gun in Brussels: The Truth Behind the Controversial Rap Clip

2023-12-16 18:03:00

Except that, this October 17, a rather intriguing video is making the buzz. We see young people gathered in front of a building located in the La Querelle district, in the Marolles, in the heart of Brussels. In the middle of this hooded group, a child, on the shoulders of a masked individual, brandishes a weapon. And shoot towards the sky.

The political world is on fire. Some see a parallel with the situation in the Middle East. Others denote a way of celebrating the attack committed the day before in Brussels. The police take up the matter.

The challenging video of a child surrounded by individuals carrying the Palestinian flag and brandishing a revolver: it was a rap clip ©XThe challenging video of a child surrounded by individuals carrying the Palestinian flag and brandishing a revolver: it was a rap clip

A few days after the events, we learned that it was not a video of a rally, but rather an extract from a rap clip, filmed in the capital well before October 17. The artists behind this work say they regret the controversy surrounding their artistic productions. And explain in the introduction to the clip – now finished and accessible in particular on YouTube – that they oppose all forms of violence, while condemning the attack committed in Brussels.

The Brussels/Ixelles police zone, however, announced on November 22 that several searches had been carried out following the broadcast of this video extract. Fake weapons and drugs were seized. The artists of this rap group are not concerned by this dragnet, but it was indeed by analyzing certain details of the video clip that investigators were able to seize large quantities of narcotics. Because it is not uncommon for certain individuals without a direct link to artistic production to appear as extras – even in a furtive or symbolic way – in these clips to convey messages. The police know this, and therefore analyze this video content carefully during their investigations.

This way of operating is notably that of Gabriel Van Malderen, principal inspector of the judicial directorate of the Brussels-West police zone (Molenbeek, Ganshoren, Jette, Koekelberg, Berchem) and specialist in urban gangs.

The Brussels CAPITAL Ixelles police zone carried out 19 searches in total in collaboration with the Federal Police, as part of an investigation relating in particular to acts of criminal association, possession of weapons, threats and damage to property in gang with violence. The said facts emerged during the investigation carried out as part of a controversial clip which was recorded in the Marolles district. ©DR Urban bands in Brussels: “In a good week, I earned 65,000 euros. It’s normal when you do drugs and girls”

The video clip as a communication tool

Urban gangs are small criminal organizations that occupy pieces of territory to do business. Their business? Mainly narcotics. And according to Inspector Van Malderen, one of the communication channels of these tapes is video clips, accessible to everyone on online music platforms or on social networks. In most of these clips, weapons and drugs are often featured. The places are also easily identifiable. Why use such processes, which are quite risky, when we imagine that criminals prefer to live in hiding?

“First, to show rival gangs that we occupy a defined territory and that we have the weapons to defend ourselves if someone enters the territory,” explains Inspector Van Malderen. Then, to tell customers ‘See what products we can offer you’, like an ad. Finally to send a message to us, police officers or concerning police officers. For example, I have already heard in clips the very precise description of certain colleagues, their vehicles and even their car plates. And then, let’s not forget one thing: music remains a mode of expression. Some sing first and foremost to tell their stories. In the clips, not everyone is necessarily a suspect. Some young people participate in these things without knowing that criminal organizations could potentially be involved. (Read testimony below)”

The policeman continues. “As for the risks that these people can take, it is difficult to measure. In itself, filming a rap video is not an offense. And the weapons used can be fake, just like bags of cannabis, packets of spices and cocaine, washing powder. The procedures are well designed – and it must be recognized that these young people are very creative – and it takes time to prove that there are real offenses behind them. That said, we don’t analyze clips all-out. There are a series of criteria that we take into account when considering one or another clip or artist. Especially since we are not naive: weapons, in Brussels, are extremely easy to obtain. Same thing for narcotics, so when we look, we know in which direction to go to find something concrete.”

How to combat the phenomenon of urban gangs? “It’s up to us to offer spaces where young people feel recognized”

Easy money

For Gabriel Van Malderen, drug trafficking is becoming so widespread in the capital that it will soon be impossible to stem this criminal phenomenon which takes root, he insists, in small parts of neighborhoods. “What I’m talking to you about is not the Italian or Albanian mafia or the Moccro Mafia, like in the Netherlands. I’m talking about small gangs which swarm everywhere and which are causing the drug market to explode, explains the police officer. Of course, they are small hands. Often when we question them, their greatest riches are their Play Station or their Gucci shoes for 1000 euros. They do not live in luxury, but in incongruous accommodation. And this is the root of the problem: most of these young people begin their delinquent journey for lack of a better perspective. Because the world of narcotics allows for a fixed and quick salary. Earning 100 to 200 euros per day, while also receiving something to eat, something to consume and having the assurance of being protected by a group if there is a problem, is attractive. Easy money is the crux of the problem.”

What the police officer also notes is a resurgence of these urban gangs and a more rapid and cruder use of violence, especially firearms. “For a little over a year and a half, score-settling between urban gangs has multiplied. In my police zone, we are currently analyzing two or three clips which intrigue our services. And there is a rapper – who also claims to be a member of a gang – who interests us, explains the police officer, refusing to provide any other information on these investigations or on the identity of the groups in the viewfinder. investigators. What I can tell you is that we are seeing developments in the wrong sense of the word.”

And to highlight the number of shootings – 41 between January and October 2023 – which have increased in Brussels, particularly in the police zone where Gabriel Van Malderen is active. “In October, we had exchanges of gunfire for three weeks, it was hellish. Fortunately, there were no deaths. But it will happen eventually, I’m sure. Because right now, they’re shooting each other in the legs. But at some point, they will decide to shoot a few centimeters higher, to kill, because they are less and less afraid. One day, we will collect corpses in Brussels like we collect corpses in Marseille.”

What about a task force, as requested in particular by the mayor of Ixelles (where a shooting left several injured a few days ago)? Inspector Van Malderen points out that this already exists. “It is not really a task force, but for several years, police officers specializing in urban gangs from the different police zones in Brussels have been meeting once a month. Magistrates specializing in the matter are also present, as well as members of the federal judicial police. For the magistrates concerned, this allows elements to be added to existing files and, sincerely, I believe that the Brussels public prosecutor’s office is carrying out important follow-up. For us, police officers, these meetings are fruitful too. It was by working in this way that we, for example, allowed the dissolution of the urban band “Negatif Clan”, which also made a lot of clips.”

And to conclude: “We are not abandoning the streets to these organizations. But we must be realistic: we will never be able to stem the phenomenon. Because at the heart of these small groups, there is the drug trade, which has become almost a common consumer product. A product that sells well, and whose sale generates big profits. Taking one of these kids off the street means seeing another one take his place. Most of these kids are not bad boys. It is when they are in groups that they become a danger. And these dangers have multiplied in recent years.”

Testimony of Roger, “neither thug nor drug addict”

We’ll call him Roger. He is 17 years old and explains having participated in several rap clips, like those described by Inspector Gabriel Van Malderen. But Roger insists: he is “neither a thug nor a drug addict”. “The first time I participated, it was because I was offered 50 euros to act like a boss. I was supposed to be there, in the shot, but you couldn’t see my face, and it lasted two hours, says Roger. Then, a friend told me that there was a way to participate in something else, by doing a few dance steps. Ditto, for 50 euros in two hours. Each time, it went really well. There were fake weapons in the clip, but they’re everywhere. Look in America, there’s that in every music video. Maybe it might shock you, but it’s like in the movies, it’s fiction. We have the right not to like rap, but doing rap is not a crime. And being in a rap video doesn’t make you a criminal,” insists the young man. Which invites us to have a more attentive hearing on the musicality, rather than on the images of these clips…

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