Belgium police, partiers clash anew over virus restrictions

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Police use tear gas and a water cannon to disperse gatherers at the Bois de la Cambre park during a party called “La Boum 2” in Brussels, Saturday, May 1, 2021. Police put on extra patrols Saturday to monitor the gathering which is being held in defiance of Belgium’s current COVID-19 regulations. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)

BRUSSELS (AP) — A few thousand people gathered for an illegal party in a Brussels park Saturday to protest COVID-19 restrictions, only to be met with a big police force who used a water cannon and tear gas to disperse the crowd.

It was the second such open-air gathering in a month. Once again, the mostly young people disregarded pleas from the government and the capital city to stay away and respect mask-wearing and social-distancing rules.

Police came early to the La Cambre woods after being warned that the party would be organized. The clashes erupted after big crowds started gathering late in the afternoon.

Some protesters gathered around a bonfire shouting “Freedom!” and “Where is the party? Here is the party!” Some pelted the police with objects.

Belgium still has strict rules banning major gatherings and insists on people wearing facemasks in large crowds.

The Brussels prosecutor’s office had warned that police would be deployed at the park and that anyone breaching restrictions could be prosecuted. It was unclear how many people had been detained or injured. At least one person was seen being taken away on a stretcher and put into an ambulance.

Two dozen people were arrested during last month’s illegal party and several people were injured.

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Follow more of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

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