Belgian Twitter users have a secret weapon in the war on terror: cat pictures. Cat snaps have flooded the hashtag #BrusselsLockdown. The hashtag went viral as people used it to post photographs of their cats.
A request from authorities to stop using social media to disclose details about police activity has inspired cat lovers to respond with humor and jabs at ISIS. Some media have characterized the phenomenon as an effort by Twitter users to make it harder for suspects to uncover information about anti-terror measures. Others have reported it as a collective act of catty defiance, Belgian style. The Daily Mail ran this headline: “Laughing in the Face of Terror.”
One of the tweets shows a kitten perched at a window and staring down the barrel of high-powered rifle. “This, dear outsiders, is how we fight terrorism here,” Gilles Bordelais tweeted. “They haven’t got a chance! We haz kittens!”
Brussels entered its third day Monday under a high terrorism alert in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and led authorities to amp up their efforts to find ISIS operatives in Belgian.
The tweets are catty, irreverent or plain old cute. One shows lazy cats posing as Belgium’s National Security Council. Another shows photos of cats disobeying advice to stay away from windows. One of the more creative tweets includes a photograph of a cat wearing a vest adorned with fake dynamite. It reads: “BREAKING: police have released a photograph of the main suspect.”
Police were alarmed about tweets containing details of a police operation on Sunday evening. The tweets could have alerted suspects, who monitor social media. Tweeters responded in droves with comments like this one: “Don’t share info on situation #BrusselsLockdown that may help suspects,” Seimen Burum tweeted. “Confuse them with #cat pics @lopcute.”
The Independent reports that the cat-themed tweets are an ironic reference to the city’s security level, now on four, which translates to Quatre in French– pronounced “cat.” It is believed the idea was conceived by a cameraman for the Dutch television channel NOS, Hugo Janssen, who tweeted: “Instead of tweets about police activity in Brussels, here’s a picture of our cat Mozart.”
Federal prosecutor Eric Van Der Sypt said police “want to thank the press and social media users because they took the need of this operation into account.” The Belgium’s Crisis Centre responded with this tweet: “Thanks to the media and citizens for their silence online as asked during the juridical intervention tonight.”