Police peacefully disperse young people gathered in Leuven town square
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Police peacefully disperse young people gathered in Leuven town square

Ladeuzeplein, Leuven

Dozens of young people came together in a square in the centre of Leuven last night, in what seemed to have been a largely coronavirus-compliant gathering.

At least for the first part of the evening, groups were kept to a maximum of 10 people and police officers reported that most were adhering to the social distancing measures intended to lessen the spread of the virus, according to De Standaard.

“It was busy, but not too bad,” one of the young people in attendance told reporters. “We really enjoyed this. We have been inside for a whole year. Do you know how much pleasure an evening outside with friends can bring?”

Eventually, around 11:00 PM, police called on the group to disperse.

“But we understand perfectly that the police have now decided to send us home. That’s okay, too. It never got out of hand, and that’s the way it should be,” said the same attendee.

With coronavirus numbers on the rise in Belgium, Mayor Mohamed Ridouani urged people to avoid crowded squares.

“The corona pandemic is still raging, the figures are on the rise,” said Ridouani. “Everyone is welcome to enjoy the sun, but you should avoid crowded places like the city park or the Sluispark. Leuven has plenty of cosy parks where it is quiet enough.”

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The Leuven city park had to be closed several times last month because too many people had gathered there. The park was especially popular with students, but they didn’t always comply with coronavirus measures. Now that warmer weather is on its way again, the city is preparing to take extra measures.

Images on social media showed a relaxed atmosphere in the square at last night’s gathering, with many people drinking. VRTNWS said there were over 200 young people.

Photos of the square after it was emptied of people showed a large amount of trash left behind.

“We did not expect such a crowd this evening, so the cleaning services were not ready. But of course we will clean up immediately,” said Alderman Thomas Van Oppens.

On Tuesday of last week, the city of Leuven announced that it would be deploying more stewards in order to avoid crowds in parks and squares. The city will also provide extra bins, free waste bags and extra toilets.

Helen Lyons
The Brussels Times