Brussels, Apr 1 (efe-epa).- Hundreds of Belgian police mobilized on Thursday to break up a crowd of several thousand people who flocked to a Brussels park for a festival even after the promoters acknowledged the event was an April Fools’ Day hoax.
Efe was on the scene as a police drone broadcast a message warning the would-be partiers that they faced fines and arrest for violating pandemic rules barring gatherings of more than four people, even outdoors.
But few heeded the order to disperse and the cops resorted to tear gas, pepper spray and water cannon to clear the Bois de la Cambre, one of the largest parks in the Belgian capital.
There were reports of people being knocked down by mounted police.
Some in the crowd hurled bottles at police vehicles and many of the people who fled subsequently returned to the park.
One of those present, a young man identifying himself only as Mehdi, called the police reaction “unnecessary,” given that most of the attendees wore masks and were sitting on the ground.
The steps police took to break up the gathering did not show any concern for people’s health, Mehdi said.
Two hours into the confrontation, police said they had made four arrests and that four officers were injured.
Police said ahead of time that additional officers would be deployed to the park on Thursday amid indications that nearly 20,000 people planned to attend the “La Boum” event, even though the anonymous promoters posted multiple messages on social media revealing that the whole thing was an April Fools’ prank.
The Brussels municipal government said the festival was “unauthorized and fake” and urged people to stay away.
The events at Bois de la Cambre came a day after a court in Brussels ruled in favor of a lawsuit brought by the League for Human Rights challenging the legal basis for the national government’s pandemic restrictions, all of which have been imposed without any input from the legislature.
The court ruled that the government must either provide a legitimate legal grounding for the measures within days or scrap them.
So far, the government has acted through ministerial decrees under the 2007 Civil Safety Act, which allows expedited procedures in “exceptional circumstances.”
On Wednesday night, police intervened to clear groups of people who lingered in another Brussels park, the Cinquentenaire, beyond the 10:00 pm curfew.
Coronavirus has claimed more than 23,000 lives in Belgium and the number of confirmed cases exceeds 882,000. The last few weeks have witnessed an increase in hospitalizations due to Covid-19. EFE