On Apr. 1, 2021, European news outlets reported that police on horseback in Brussels, Belgium stampeded through a crowd of young people gathering in the urban park Bois de la Cambre on a warm spring day in violation of the government’s strict social distancing rules. An estimated 2,000 to 5,000 people showed up to attend an outdoor music festival called “La Boum” (the party) that turned out to be an April Fool’s prank. The police used water cannons, pepper spray, tear gas and a drone to disperse the crowd, with at least one person being trampled by a policeman on horseback and 22 arrests.1 2
According to the Brussels Times, some “came to protest against Belgium’s coronavirus police,” with one person saying “he does not believe in any scientific consensus on the coronavirus,” calling the measures “excessive” and commenting that “enough is enough.”3 Both the event organizers and police had warned on social media that it was a fake event but thousands of young people gathered in the park anyway, despite the government’s restrictions on public gatherings to just four people and a nighttime curfew.4
Belgian Court Orders Government to Lift “All Coronavirus Measures” Within 30 Days
The day before, on Mar. 31, 2021, a Brussels court ordered the government of Belgium to lift “all coronavirus measures” within 30 days. A judge ruled that the legal basis for the lockdown was insufficient and gave the State a month to provide a sound legal basis for the restrictions or be penalized 5,000 euros a day that the period is exceeded.5
The League for Human Rights had filed a lawsuit earlier in March challenging the Belgium government’s social distancing rules and other “Ministerial Decrees” that were implemented without any input from the parliament. The current coronavirus measures were enacted under the Civil Safety Act of 2007, which allows the government to react quickly in “exceptional circumstances.”
Until the government responds within the 30 day deadline, the current coronavirus restrictions will remain enforced by the police. Reportedly, the parliament is debating the passage of a new pandemic law that would grant permanent legal authority for the government to institute social distancing and other restrictions during a pandemic.
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1 Carr J. Belgian mounted police TRAMPLE revelers with their horses and use water cannons in violent clashes as they try to clear thousands lured to lockdown-breaching “festival’ in park by April Fool’s prank. Daily Mail Apr. 1, 2021.
2 Brussels Times. Thousands party in Brussels Bois de la Cambre as April Fools’ joke gets out of hand. Apr. 1, 2021.
4 Yahoo! News. Belgium police clash with partiers amid virus restrictions. Apr. 1, 2021.
5 Brussels Times. Belgium must lift “all COVID-19” measures’ within 30 days, Brussels court rules. Mar. 31, 2021.