Belgium: Police clash with April Fool’s Day party crowd

Police on Thursday dispersed some 2,000 people gathered in the “Bois de La Cambre” park in Brussels in defiance of Belgium’s coronavirus lockdown.

People gathered for a fake concert dubbed “La Boum” (the party), although the organizers announced on social media that it was an April Fool’s Day prank.

Hundreds of police, many in riot gear and some on horseback, used water cannon trucks and teargas to break up the crowds.

Police told the Associated Press that four people were arrested and three police officers were injured.

Many in the crowd pumped their fists and chanted “freedom” and some threw bottles and stones at the water cannon trucks.

The party was announced on Facebook in March. Organizers promised a lineup of singer and producer Calvin Harris and a one-off reunion of French band Daft Punk.

“We are all depressed. I’ll be 18 in two weeks, we want to take advantage of our youth,” high school student Amelie, who had come for the party, told Reuters. “We came not to annoy the police, but to show that we also have a life and want to enjoy it.”

‘Gathering would not be tolerated’

Brussels Mayor Philippe Close said he understood that people need to get some fresh air, but such gatherings would not be tolerated. “We evacuated the wood. Those who do not obey police risk arrest and prosecution,” Close said on Twitter.

The unusually sunny, warm weather has prompted crowds to gather in Brussels parks this week.

Belgium has recorded at least 882,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 23,000 virus-related deaths. The rise in coronavirus cases has put pressure on hospitals in recent weeks.

Current COVID restrictions in Belgium include a nighttime curfew, limited gatherings and a ban on nonessential international travel.

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