“Local residents gave the police a bell because of the noise disturbance at various locations across the city” says Antwerp police’s Wouter Bruyns. “We attended nine locations. In all 64 people were IDed. That’s quite a lot!”
Officer Bruyns insists that most of those present were well aware that they were in violation of corona measures as they often attempted to escape from the premises and the police. “Many hid, often on the roof, in the forlorn hope that the police would not search there.”
Partygoers clearly hadn’t counted on the determination of Antwerp police to continue each search until all those present were accounted for and identified.
Charge sheets were issued at each venue. A number of arrests were made after people offered resistance. One individual was detained because earlier in the evening police had encountered him at a different party.
Bart De Wever (Flemish nationalist), the Mayor of Antwerp, is unhappy: “People are getting more and more aggressive. They are refusing the police entry. Interior minister Verlinden (Flemish Christian democrat) said the police can’t enter without grounds. I have to contradict this. We can enter within the framework of public health legislation. That’s what we are doing. Don’t think you can barricade yourself in your home and throw a party!”
“We’re talking about an average cross section of the population. A week ago everybody was fingering the Jewish community. Take a look at last night’s parties and this is a kaleidoscope of the city. It’s happening across neighbourhoods: upmarket, down market in flats, in hotels or people are hiring Airbnbs. Ten, twenty, thirty of them congregate and they often do drugs and laughing gas as well!”
Mr De Wever is particularly annoyed about the way police officers are treated: “They are accused of racism. Women officers are called slags. Hefty fines are on the way. We’ll make it our business. Prosecutions will follow.”
Those present risk fines of up to 4,000 euros and custodial sentences of up to 3 months.
“I must call on the people to keep it up. Otherwise we will have to intervene. It’s not my first choice. I don’t want to turn Antwerp into an occupied city. I prefer to work with our residents, but some are making this rather difficult.”