The Belgian police intervened in force on Saturday at the end of the afternoon to disperse several thousand people who had come to “party” in a park in Brussels despite the ban by the authorities.
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A dispersal order was given shortly before 6 pm “on the grounds that sanitary measures were not respected”, announced the Brussels police.
About twenty police vans and several trucks equipped with water cannons had been brought to the edge of the lawn where the crowd had gathered. The firing of water accompanied the advance of the police in anti-riot equipment.
Many participants then complied and left. But groups stayed. Smoke were fired, said one of the AFP journalists, hit in the chest by a projectile.
The gathering had started in a good-natured atmosphere under the sun.
“We are here to defend our freedom. The mask? No, I don’t wear any more, I want to be free, ”explained an 18-year-old high school student.
“It’s been a year since this last. A year that you can’t go out. After a while, you have to find alternatives, ”added a young Brussels woman.
The tension began with the arrival of a police van on the lawn. Cries were heard: “Liberty, liberty”. Then the detonations of firecrackers and the throwing of projectiles pushed the vehicle to turn back.
A police helicopter flew over the park during the rally and a drone broadcast warnings in French, English and Flemish, calling on people to wear masks and maintain safe distances.
Prime Minister Alexander De Croo called on Friday not to participate in this rally, organized via social networks in the Bois de la Cambre, a park located in the residential districts of the capital.
“This kind of events are organized by some with the aim of destabilizing an approach in our country which has nevertheless been very reasonable and very calm, compared to other countries. Do not fall into this trap, it is a trap, ”he said.
“I would advise against going to places where things are announced”, for her part warned the Minister of the Interior Annelies Verlinden.
More than 600 police officers had been mobilized against this prohibited gathering.
The authorities feared the repetition of the incidents which had injured more than thirty people on April 1, when the police tried to disperse several hundred people who had come to participate in a party, known as “the Boom”, in this park.