Belgian police clash with parties over Covid-19 restrictions

Belgian police collided with a large crowd on Thursday in one of Brussels’ largest parks after thousands of partygoers gathered for an unauthorized event despite coronavirus restrictions.

Brussels police told the Associated Press that four people were arrested and three police officers were injured. Conflicts started after police ordered the crowd to disperse towards the end of the afternoon. An AP reporter saw people throwing bottles and other projectiles at police, who used water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowd.

The festival, called “La Boum” (“the party”), had been advertised on social media and police warned that it was a fake event on April Fool’s Day. According to Brussels police, up to 2,000 people are still showing up at the Bois de la Cambre to take part.

Large crowds have gathered in parks in Brussels this week to enjoy the unusually sunny, warm weather, despite coronavirus restrictions limiting outdoor gatherings to four people. The Brussels prosecutor’s office had said that the police would be deployed at the festival and that anyone who violated restrictions could be prosecuted.

Another event has been announced for Friday in another park in Brussels, promoted by a group called the Abyss. The group said it did not question the government’s strategy but was fighting for citizens’ rights to gather outdoors.

Belgium has reported over 882,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and more than 23,000 virus-related deaths. Hospital admissions due to COVID-19 have increased in recent weeks and health authorities have warned that intensive care units may reach a critical level on April 10 if the rate of new infections and hospital admissions does not slow down.

Belgium’s current virus restrictions include a curfew at night and a ban on non-essential international travel.