'Slap in the face': over 20 arrests after fake festival in Brussels Bois de la Cambre

'Slap in the face': over 20 arrests after fake festival in Brussels Bois de la Cambre
Credit: Belga

The fake festival "La Boum" that saw thousands of people partying in the Brussels Bois de La Cambre on Thursday led to dozens of injured police officers and over 20 arrests.

Local police estimated that between 1,500 and 2,000 people gathered in the park on Thursday afternoon, most of them not wearing face masks and not respecting the social distance rules.

According to Brussels police spokesperson Ilse Van de Keere, at least 26 police officers, seven police horses and eight demonstrators were injured while trying to disperse the crowds.

Some people were taken to the hospital, but there are no reports of severe injuries so far, according to her. Several police vehicles were also damaged.

Additionally, 22 people were arrested, 18 of them administratively (meaning no criminal charges are pending) and four judicially (meaning they were deprived of their liberty within the framework of a judicial investigation).

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Belgium's Interior Affairs Minister Annelies Verlinden called the situation a "slap in the face for all those who are doing their best to respect the coronavirus measures."

Verlinden stated that she sympathised with everyone who got sick because of Covid-19, with the families mourning a loved one, and the healthcare workers who are "once again at the limit of their hospital's capacity."

As long as the virus is not under control, everyone is expected to adhere to sanitary measures, according to Verlinden. "The fact that police officers were injured while doing their job is unacceptable."

Additionally, Verlinden called for "more civic-mindedness and more responsibility" to prevent "rash gatherings" like these from happening again.

"I am well aware that for many people, especially young people, the Covid crisis is now lasting a very long time, and that it is not always easy to comply with the measures," Verlinden said. "Especially now, when the better weather is also inviting us to get outside and meet each other."

"The more consistent we are in adhering to the measures, the faster we can stop the spread of the virus together," she said, calling for caution so that "inappropriate and fake calls" on social media do not turn into "uncontrollable mass demonstrations."

Reacting to the event, virologist and interfederal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht stated that "it is still far too early for this" on Flemish radio. "We are at a stage where very few people are still vaccinated and protected, so we must continue to insist on the measures. This cannot happen again."

While he said that he understands that many young people are fed up, he is asking them to hang on a little longer. "By letting go too soon you can potentially cause thousands of extra deaths that are not necessary because in a few weeks the people who are at risk of complications and deaths will have been vaccinated," Van Gucht said.

"It's too early to let go of the reins, as difficult as that may be," he added.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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