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Investigation launched as images emerge of woman knocked over by police horse

The Federal Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden (Flemish Christian democrat) has said that she will ask for an investigation into images shot during Thursday evening’s disturbances in the Ter Kamerenbos park in Brussels that showed a woman being knocked to the ground by a police horse. Speaking in an interview with VRT News, Ms Verlinden said that “It’s still too early to judge, but it is of course the case that a (police) operation must always be proportional”. The images of the incident have been widely spread via social media. The context within which the incident shown in the film happened will now be investigated. 

On Thursday evening thousands of young people went to the Ter Kameren Bos park, a large park in the affluent southeast of Brussels, to attend a festival called “La Boum”. In fact, the festival was nothing more than an April Fool’s prank. Due to the sheer number of people that had gathered and the fact that many were not respecting the coronavirus restrictions it was decided to clear the park. Although the lion’s share of those that had gone there left peacefully when they were asked to, a group of several hundred people turned on the police. 22 arrests were made. The Judicial authorities have confirmed that one person detained on Thursday evening will appear in court on 22 April on charges of assaulting a police officer rendering him unfit for work.

Ms Verlinden told VRT News that "I have no empathy for the way in which this degenerated. Based on the information that I have the police asked the young people in a friendly but firm way to go home. A drone was used to convey this message. However, this met with resistance and the young people started throwing things. It was then that the police started using stronger tactics”. 

Mounted police

One of the “stronger tactics” used was the deployment of mounted police. A film that is doing the rounds on social media shows a mounted police officer knock someone down with their horse. At the time the person that was knocked down was stood with their back to the mounted police that were charging.

"I have seen various images, but it is still too early to pass judgement. I will investigate, but it is of course the case that action must be proportional, and this is something that we will look into further”.

The context in which the footage was shot is not clear and is being investigated. On Friday morning the Brussels Judicial Authorities said that they would analyse images that are circulating on social media (including the incident with the horse). The Judicial Authorities Spokeswoman Sarah Durant told journalists "As things stand, we have still not received any complaints about violence perpetrated by police officers. Anyone that thinks that they have been the victim of a criminal offence can report it”. 

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