Thousands party in Brussels Bois de la Cambre as April Fools' joke gets out of hand

Thousands party in Brussels Bois de la Cambre as April Fools' joke gets out of hand
Credit: Video screengrab/Twitter

Riot police were deployed to disperse crowds in Brussels' Bois de la Cambre on Thursday afternoon after thousands of people showed up to "La Boum," a fake festival that was announced as an April Fools' joke.

Photos and videos on social media show large crowds of young people dancing and partying, but police spokesperson Ilse Van de Keere told the Belga news agency that police started clearing the park around 5:00 PM.

Many of the people present, however, refused to leave and threw bottles and other projectiles at the police, leading the police to use water cannons, police horses, pepper spray, tear gas, and a drone.

Since the beginning of the week, it was clear that the professed festival "with eight stages, a hundred DJs and zero coronavirus rules" was an April Fools' joke.

The City of Brussels was aware of the Facebook event, and communicated in advance that it was "unauthorised and fake," and that the police would be present in the park.

The anonymous organisers of "La Boum" announced several times via social media that it was an April Fools' joke, but that did not stop thousands of people from flocking to the park.

Several of those present came to protest against Belgium's coronavirus police. One of them told De Morgen that he does not believe in any scientific consensus on the coronavirus, called the measures "excessive" and said that "enough is enough."

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Around 6:30 PM, the mayor of Brussels City, Philippe Close, tweeted that "we cannot tolerate" gatherings like the one in the Bois de la Cambre, after having seen the efforts of the vaccination centres to fight the virus on Thursday afternoon.

"We have therefore evacuated the forest," he said. "Those who do not follow the orders of the police run the risk of being arrested and prosecuted."

Additionally, he thanked the police "for the difficult work," and "the people who have been following the rules for over a year."

Around 7:30 PM, the police were still at the scene, four people were administratively arrested, and three police officers were injured by projectiles, according to interim figures by police spokesperson Ilse Van de Keere.

Credit: Belga

Credit: Belga

Credit: Belga

Update: This article has been updated to include comments by the Brussels mayor and figures by the police.

Update: Over 20 arrests were made, and dozens of people were injured, according to the police on Friday morning. The latest can be found here.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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