Workers in Brussels were cleaning up the city’s Bois de la Cambre park early Friday after an April Fools’ Day prank brought thousands of young people there Thursday amid a COVID-19 lockdown, leading to clashes with police.
A social media posting last month advertising "La Boum" (The Party) for Thursday, April 1, promising a concert was apparently intended as an April Fools’ Day joke. But police said they became concerned when nearly 20,000 people indicated plans to attend.
Brussels police Wednesday issued warnings that the advertised “party” was a hoax and in violation of COVID-19 regulations. But officials say about 2,000 people showed up anyway, many of them frustrated by restrictions and drawn out by warm weather.
Clashes began later Thursday when police attempted to disperse the crowd, which threw bottles and other projectiles. The police, some on horseback and others in riot gear, responded with water cannons and tear gas.
Reports say at least four people were arrested and both police and party goers were injured, some seriously enough to seek treatment at local hospitals. Brussels police and prosecutors say they are investigating who was behind the social media prank.
Some of the young people in the park told reporters they came not because of the promised concert or to provoke the police, but because they were bored, sick of the restrictions and wanted to get out.
Belgium’s current pandemic restrictions prohibit gatherings of more than four people.