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22 people detained and dozens injured at festival intended as an April Fool’s joke

26 police officers and 8 young people were injured during disturbances in the Ter Kamerbos park in Brussels on Thursday evening. The disturbances came as police attempted to clear the park of thousands young people that had responded to an invitation to attend a festival in the park that an artists’ collective had sent out as an April Fool’s joke. 

Due to the sheer number of people that had gathered rules on social distancing couldn’t be upheld and many of those present were not wearing face coverings, something that is mandatory in public places in the whole of the Brussels-Capital Region. In addition to the human casualties 7 police horses were also injured.  

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Police began their attempts to clear the park at around 4pm. As the situation deteriorated, they deployed water cannon, horses and dogs. By 6:30pm most of those that had been at the park had left. However, a hard core of a few hundred people remained at times staging pitched battles with the police. 

It wasn’t until 10pm that peace finally returned. By then 26 police officers had been injured after having been pelted with object thrown by those in the park. 

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Ilse Van de Keere of the Brussels-Capital Elsene Local Police Service told VRT News one police officer was taken to hospital with a head injury. "In addition to these 7 horses were also injured. 8 participants were injured. Of them 6 were treated at the scene and 2 were taken to hospital. There were slightly injured”. 

22 people detained

The police say that around 2,000 people were in the park for the fake festival. However, our reporter at the scene says that there were many more. 22 people were detained, 18 for public order offices, 4 for other more serious offences. Other arrests could follow once CCTV footage has been analysed. Rumours are circulating that there may be other such gatherings planned in Brussels during the Easter weekend. The police say that they are prepared for another large-scale deployment of officers if this proves necessary.

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The Federal Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden (Flemish Christian democrat) told VRT News that "I can only ask people to be sensible. Of course, the forces of law and order will be present again where necessary".

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