Caught being outside after ten
Me and my
AnnaSurrounded on the Grote Markt
Anna has a grand total of three corona fines. Clearly, she’s not great at the cat-and-mouse game she’s been playing with the police. ‘Three was enough for me, so I’ve been a bit more careful lately.’
What made her decide to go to parties anyway? She didn’t think the rules were fair and she wanted to have at least some fun during her first year as a student. She didn’t get into the student association she’d signed up with. ‘Everything is closed, classes are online. This year wasn’t anything like I’d expected.’
She may have accrued three fines, but she went to many more parties than that. ‘It’s a risk you take, so you just have to accept it when you do get caught’, she says.
A police car stopped just as we’d arrived
She received her first fine taking a taxi with two of her roommates. ‘The police stopped the taxi and asked us where we were going. We said we were visiting our boyfriends for a sleepover. Unfortunately, all of us were fined and the taxi took us back home, escorted by the police.’
She got her second fine in a taxi, as well. ‘Just as we’d arrived at our destination, a police car stopped in front of the taxi. We had to get out and show our IDs.’
Her third fine was for running across the Grote Markt with a friend. ‘We hid behind a stack of chairs, but the officers approached from different sides and surrounded us.’
Anna can’t wait until April 28, when the curfew ends. ‘Although it’ll take some getting used to being able to decide if I want to go out for a drink at 11 p.m.’
DaanOn the ground in a princess dress
Twenty-two-year-old economics and business economics student Daan also has three fines for breaking curfew. When he got his first fine, he even got tackled by a police officer. ‘I was on my way home from a party and I really needed to pee. Halfway through my pee, I saw the cops coming up. I tried to get around the officer, but he tackled me and I went down.’
He was also fined for public urination, as well as for refusing to identify himself. ‘I had to pay nearly four hundred euros in fines in total.’
He received another fine when he was only a hundred metres away from his house. ‘Our house and another student house had organised a dinner for one of my roommates. We were all in fancy dress. We were having dinner in one house and then we’d go over to the other house for a party.’
The officer tackled me and I went down
The two houses are close together. ‘A roommate and I were walking over when I fell down. In the meantime, the police were fining my roommate, so I decided to stay down. I was playing dead in the middle of the street in a giant princess dress with a big sweater over it. I knew I had to get up like nothing had happened, and that I would be fined.’
Daan thought the curfew was nonsense the moment it was announced. ‘Obviously, we need to get infections down, but I don’t think this really helps, and I don’t think it’s right to infringe on our freedom this way.’
He’s looking forward to the day he can go outside at night without having to watch out for police. ‘That’s normal.’
KimFilming TikToks with the cops
Kim, twenty-one years old and a student of economics and business economics, has been fined once. ‘I just wanted to be able to go wherever I wanted to, and I don’t think the curfew is working as well as they said or thought.’
She and her friends had gone to a party. ‘We arrived before 10 p.m., so we’d only risk getting fined once if we left before 4.30 a.m.’
Suddenly, the music was turned off and everyone had to be quiet; the police were in the neighbourhood, scoping for a building that was too noisy. ‘After thirty minutes I got sick of it. I wanted to walk home alone. I’d forgotten all about the curfew. My roommates yelled for me to come back, reminding me of the curfew and of the fact that the police were still around.’
In the end, Kim, her roommates, and three of her friends decided to leave anyway. ‘We were walking down the middle of the Herestraat. We didn’t even try to hide. A blue Volkswagen pulled up beside us, and the people inside told us to stop. They were undercover cops.’
If I tell you a joke, will you not fine me?
Two of the girls started running, but the police were faster. ‘I was really drunk, and I thought it was a good idea to ask whether, if I told them a joke and they laughed, they didn’t give me a fine. I told them my joke and they laughed. We even made a few TikToks together, but alas: they did fine me in the end.’
The other people in the group also received fines, and they were given fifteen minutes to get home.
She knows what she did wasn’t allowed, but the curfew had been extended so many times that she’d reached her limit. ‘We’d had no student life, no actual life, for over a year. You just go stir-crazy sitting at home day and night. So you start weighing the pros and cons: am I going to spend another night on the couch or risk getting a fine?’
Kim is happy the curfew is almost over, but it was also a unique experience. ‘At least I’ll have some great stories to tell my grandchildren.’
The names of the students are pseudonyms. The editors know their real names.