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Man attacked on Brussels tram for telling passengers to wear mask
A man who confronted two fellow tram passengers for not wearing masks says he is "paying the price of human stupidity" after he was violently attacked.
Photojournalist François Dvorak was heading to the Bois de la Cambre on 4 June to report on an Extinction Rebellion protest, when he asked two men on his tram why they were not wearing a compulsory facemask.
They became aggressive and started insulting him. Dvorak made his way towards the driver's cab, but one of the men grabbed his camera and he was beaten several times in the head.
When he regained his senses, he saw a puddle of blood at his feet. He praised fellow passengers for coming to his help. The tram driver alerted the police, but opened all the doors, allowing the attackers to run off.
Two suspects were arrested further along the tram line and will appear in court on Friday charged with assault and battery.
Dvorak was taken to hospital, where he received several stitches to the skull. He said he was still suffering shock from the incident.
"I reported on the Egyptian revolution, I went to Syria, but the biggest scar that I will have comes from a tram in Belgium," said Dvorak.
The photographer has been working in a Brussels chocolate shop to make ends meet since his journalism work dried up during the coronavirus crisis.
He added: "I lost my grandmother because of coronavirus, so I know what it is like to lose someone. These people are not aware of it - they are dangerous."
According to Stib, almost 1,500 checks have been carried out on the Brussels public transport network since the obligation to wear a mask came into force on 4 May.
"Non-compliance is really very marginal," a Stib spokesperson said. "In the vast majority of cases, travellers respect the rules and wear masks."