One morning in 1997, Frank Beke, the mayor of Ghent,
woke up to find he’d been sent a bullet in the post. For the next few weeks Beke wore a bulletproof jacket, while police stood guard outside his house and accompanied him everywhere he went. “I was very anxious for my family,” he says. “I was protected by police but my wife and my children weren’t.”
The culprit was eventually found and arrested – a man who owned a shoe shop in the Belgian city’s medieval centre. His motive? Beke’s plans brussels hookers to pedestrianise the area around his shop.
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“It was a rather radical plan to ban all cars from an area of about 35 hectares,” recalls Beke...