Belgian police intervene to end rally against health restrictions

“La Boum 2” has just ended in Belgium. The Belgian police intervened in force, at the end of the afternoon on Saturday 1er May, to disperse more than a thousand people who came ” to party “ in a park in Brussels despite the ban by the authorities.

A dispersal order was given shortly before 6 p.m. “On the grounds that the sanitary measures are not respected”, Brussels police announced. 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 water shots accompanied the advance of the police in riot gear.

Many participants then complied and left. But groups stayed. Smoke were fired, said a journalist from Agence France-Presse (AFP), hit in the chest by a projectile.

During the intervention, one person was injured by the jet of a water cannon and two police officers were slightly injured, said in the early evening, the mayor of Brussels, Philippe Close. There were about fifteen arrests, according to the elected official, while a hundred people were still facing the police in riot gear around 8 p.m.

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“Freedom, freedom! “

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.

According to the crisis center, between 1,500 and 2,000 people were present on the lawns of Bois de la Cambre at the height of the rally around 5 pm. There was a hard core of “700 demonstrators” under the eye of many curious and walkers, qualified an official source with AFP.

The tension began to rise with the arrival of a police van on the lawn. The cries were heard: “Freedom, freedom! “ 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.

600 police officers mobilized

Saturday evening, Philippe Close regretted the excesses, arguing that” About ten “ other demonstrations in the Belgian capital took place peacefully on Labor Day. “Everyone is fed up, but the vast majority of people continue to respect the measures”, affirmed the elected socialist.

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 areas of the capital. “These kinds 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 had launched. “I would advise against going to places where things are announced”, for his 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 1er April, when the police tried to disperse several hundred people who had come to participate in a party, later called “La Boom”, in this park.

Protest demonstrations against the restrictions took place in several other Belgian cities, notably in Liège where a march brought together a thousand people.

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The World with AFP