The police in Ghent were attacked with glass and beer crates after trying to clear the Sint-Pietersplein in the city’s student neighbourhood, where young people had been partying on Wednesday night.
Although several teams of police officers had been monitoring the situation on the square throughout the evening, the situation spun out of control, resulting in the arrest of two young people for public disorder.
“As the square can be accessed from many different sides, it suddenly went from just being quite calm with a few groups of people, a little busy to a situation where we said this is no longer okay or safe at a very fast pace,” chief inspector Bart De Cocker of the Ghent police zone told The Brussels Times.
Between 7:00 and 8:00 PM, the police determined that social distancing was not being respected, and in consultation with the local authorities, decided to evacuate the square.
“At first it went very well, then a small group of people refused to leave, and started throwing all kinds of objects at the police, including glass. We decided to stop the evacuation and called in back-up, and then between 8:00 and 9:00 PM we continued, and all the people left the square,” said De Cocker.
Cynisch tafereel vanop het Sint-Pietersplein in Gent momenteel
The two young people who had been arrested were given fines, one for not respecting the coronavirus measures and another for violating the glass curfew in the city.
As this is not the first of such incidents to take place on the square, the police will be meeting with the mayor on Thursday, and an analysis will be made on what can be done to avoid these incidents, and what extra measures can be taken.
“One of the actions we could take would be to deploy more officers,” said De Cocker.
Two nights in a row
In Leuven, the Ladeuzeplein in the city centre was also evacuated by the police for the second night in a row.
“Throughout yesterday evening, the Ladeuzeplein was crowded, but under control and police were present to monitor the situation. But then at 8:00 PM, we decided to ask everyone to leave, as social distancing measures could no longer be respected,” Leuven police zone’s chief inspector Mathieu Caudron told The Brussels Times.
“This has to do with the spacing between people, there are certain criteria which we follow to ask people to leave a certain space. Everyone followed our request calmly and the square was cleared without incident,” he added.