In recent weeks, some 70,000 people had expressed their interest on Facebook to attend a festival called “La Boum”, which according to Le Brussels Times had announced “eight stages, a hundred DJs and zero coronavirus rule”.
Although the anonymous budding organizers, the police and the mayor of the city Philippe Close all made it clear that the event was a farce, between 2,000 and 5,000 people made their way to one of the largest parks in Brussels on Thursday, the Bois de la Cambre, according to estimates by the police and local media respectively.
Images posted to social media showed chaotic scenes as riot police armed with shields and batons moved to disperse the crowds, which – in addition to some participants filmed drinking and dancing – appeared to include of people dissatisfied with the rules currently in force against coronaviruses. prevent a third wave of infections, in a context of an increase in the number of cases and hospitalizations.
Some clips showed police officers rushing into crowds on horseback, as revelers dodged jets from water cannons deployed to interrupt the unauthorized event, alongside tear gas and pepper spray.
Local media reported that a man was struck to the ground by a police horse. A police dog was also visible in another clip.
La Libre Belgique reported that despite arriving around 5 p.m., police continued to meet resistance for hours, with some in the crowd throwing bottles and other projectiles at law enforcement.
“Be careful, the police will disperse the premises, all people will be likely to receive a ticket,” were the resounding words of a police vehicle, according to the point of sale.
Images taken by photojournalists showed a policeman bleeding from his head as he apparently detained someone.
The morning reported that efforts to clean up the park were still underway at 8 p.m. local time.
At 6:23 pm local time, the city’s mayor wrote on Twitter that while “people need to be outside… we cannot tolerate such gatherings in the Bois de la Cambre”.
“So we evacuated the forest,” said Philippe Close. “Those who do not obey police orders run the risk of being arrested and prosecuted.”
He told local media site DHNet, “I will do everything I can to make sure they are prosecuted. And I’ll send them the bill. ”
The prosecutor’s office is investigating the currently anonymous founders of the fake event, according to VRT.
The organizers are said to have turned out to be “creatives” working in the besieged event industry. The morning quoted them saying, “We haven’t done anything wrong, have we?” If we really had a festival or a party, we would. But it’s no more and no less than an April Fool’s Day joke. ”
Some in the crowd were said to have appeared to have attended the demonstration to protest the lockdown restrictions.
It comes as the Belgian government grapples with a Brussels court ruling ordering it to provide a solid legal basis for its coronavirus legislation, or face a fine of € 5,000 per day.
As a third wave of the virus hits the continent, Belgium has implemented a nighttime curfew and has banned people from meeting outdoors in groups of more than four.
Hospitalizations have increased in recent weeks and health officials are warning intensive care facilities could reach critical levels next week unless the number of new infections slows.