About 2,000 people in Belgium were misled by the April Fools’ false news and gathered in a park in the capital Brussels to attend a concert. In violation of epidemic prevention regulations, the police used water cannons to disperse the crowd and arrested at least 22 people.
An AFP reporter saw at the scene a crowd gathered in the Bois de la Cambre Park on the south side of the Belgian capital. Some people threw bottles and projectiles at the police wearing riot gear.
The police said three policemen were injured and one of them had to be taken to the hospital for treatment; eight people were injured.
Because some netizens used the social networking site Facebook to engage in April Fool’s Day pranks, saying that there were concerts in the park and crowds gathered in the park. Although the police referred to the news as an April Fool’s Day prank and emphasized that large gatherings were illegal, the author clarified that it was just an April Fool’s Day joke a few days ago. However, more than a thousand people were still present. Reuters quoted local media as saying that there are estimated to be as many as 5000 people went.
Belgium has a total of nearly 888,000 confirmed cases and more than 23,000 deaths. Strict lockdown measures are being implemented in response to the third wave of the epidemic. The current epidemic prevention measures limit the number of people gathering outdoors to four. As nearly 20,000 people indicated that they would be present, the police sent hundreds of riot police and mounted police teams. They arrived at the scene with the support of multiple water cannon vehicles and fired water cannons and tear gas to disperse them. Someone took the opportunity to damage the police car and was driven away by the police with pepper spray.
Selim Jebira, who was present, complained to reporters that the police “fired tear gas at us for no reason.”
The mayor of Brussels, Philip Cross, told the public via Twitter that although he understands that people want to go outdoors in the spring, “we cannot tolerate such gatherings.” He thanked the police for their “hard work, and also thanked the people who followed the rules for more than a year.”
The police have launched an investigation to find out who sent false information through Facebook.