Dozens of people were arrested in Belgian cities on Thursday night after Morocco's win over Canada and qualification for the knock-out stage at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Police in Brussels reported 18 arrests, while 35 people were detained in Antwerp.
In Brussels, hundreds of people took to the streets to celebrate in the capital. The center of gravity of the festivities was on the central Lemonnier Avenue in the center of the capital.
The police were present en masse from the Beursplein to the end of the Lemonnierlaan near the Brussels-South station. Due to the large crowds, around 7 p.m. the Zuidlaan and the Hallepoorttunnel towards the South were closed to traffic.
Eighteen arrested in Brussels
After the match, many Moroccan supporters took to the streets with flags and fireworks to celebrate the victory and placement for the next round. Unlike the events after Morocco’s match against Belgium, no riots broke out this time. During the celebrations, some flares were directed at the police and, for a while, teargas was deployed.
Many fans gathered in the neighbourhood around Black Ponds in Molenbeek and on the Pavilion Square in Schaerbeek. In Schaerbeek, a group of about 50 people harassed passersby, and the police had to intervene.
“A total of 18 administrative arrests for disturbance were made, most of them in the Brussels Capital Elsene police zone,” Ilse Van de Keere, spokeswoman for the Brussels Capital Elsene police, said.
Police report 35 arrests in Antwerp
In Antwerp, the celebrations ended in riots on Thursday night, with police arresting 35 persons. Three officers were injured.
Police closed parts of Turnhoutsebaan in Borgerhout, and Sint-Bernardsesteenweg in Hoboken, after the revellers took to the streets, some of them with fireworks.
Social workers and community leaders tried to avoid an escalation by forming a human chain at the intersection of Turnhoutsebaan and Ommeganckstraat and prevent a confrontation. However, a few persons kept shooting off fireworks and blocking streets at both locations, according to the police.
Police mediators injured
On Sint-Bernardsesteenweg, police deployed a water cannon after plainclothes officers who tried to mediate were beseiged. Four persons were eventually arrested there.
On Turnhoutsebaan, police decided to surround the last remaining rioters - about 30 persons - and arrest them all, according to police. “Unfortunately, three officers were also injured,” said police spokesman Willem Migom.
“They were all members of our mediation teams, who work in plain clothes and have de-escalation as their goal. It is regrettable that it's precisely they who became victims of fireworks and were stoned,” Migom added.