Antwerp police bust 99 guests at lockdown wedding and bar mitzvah

Antwerp police bust 99 guests at lockdown wedding and bar mitzvah
© Belga

Police in Antwerp busted dozens of people celebrating at a Jewish wedding and a bar mitzvah, in two separate violations of the coronavirus ban on gatherings.

Officers said they received reports that two "relatively large" gatherings were taking place on the same night in the Flemish city, although it remains unclear whether they were related.

Over 50 attendants at a bar mitzvah taking place in a party hall in Isabellalei, in the Jewish quarter, were caught red-handed by police at around 8:00 PM.

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"There were 57 people present and food and drinks were provided," a police spokesperson told De Standaard, adding that some attendants had attempted to hide inside boxes to escape the police.

Police carried out identity checks on all adult attendants of the gathering and found one guest who was living in Belgium undocumented, the spokesperson added.

Later in the evening, the local police were alerted of another party taking place just minutes away, in a banquet hall in Van Leriusstraat.

Police said that when attendants saw patrols arriving, they immediately shut themselves and prevented the officers from entering the venue, even after police had identified themselves.

"The police had to force open a door and climb over a wall in order to gain access to the building," the spokesperson said.

The gathering turned out to be a Jewish wedding at which 42 guests were in attendance, all of whom had been identified, including nine who attempted to hide from the police in the toilets.

All adults among the 99 guests present received subpoenas and are set to appear before a court, in an incident which comes after public prosecutors in Antwerp said there would be no leniency towards violations on coronavirus rules. Attendants' risk a fine of at least €250.

Tuesday evening marks the second time in ten days that police in Antwerp bust attendants at a lockdown party. On 15 November, police broke up a party of just under a dozen people in their twenties just as their pizza order had arrived.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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