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Man attacked on Brussels tram for telling passengers to wear mask

07:53 16/06/2020

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."

Written by The Bulletin


Frank Lee

Don't take the law into your own hands. Let the professionals deal with it. Of course, law enforcement is never there when you need them.

Jun 16, 2020 17:48

@Frank Lee:
This is a person requesting another person to follow law/guidelines since he knows that not wearing masks is a danger to all travelling in that tram, having lost his grandmother to COVID-19. The mistake of the tram driver was to open the doors and let dangerous criminal escape.

People seem to be underestimating COVID-19.

Jun 17, 2020 09:02

Criminals don't usually mind wearing masks...

Jun 17, 2020 09:18

Criminals don't usually have a problem with wearing masks!

Jun 17, 2020 09:19

I ran into the same situation on Tram line 7 (avenue Churchill) with a young snotty couple in their teens. I'm 80 so I didn't intervene physically. What is more appaling is that I'm in Brussels only 3 months and it looks like people of all ages board the trams without paying. Is this a free for all country where rules aren't applied?

Jun 17, 2020 09:27

Many people have a subscription card (mobib) that covers a month or whole year - it's cheaper than having to buy each ride as a single fare. I have the yearly subscription for 500 Euros with unlimited travel. Unless I am taking the metro and have to "open the barrier" - there's no need to take out the mobib card.

But I agree on the point of the young couple - at the risk of sounding old, I am really disappointed in the majority of student-age people in Brussels. Such indifference to others because they believe an infection would be harmless to them. Don't get me started on the aggressive joggers...

Jun 17, 2020 10:48

Civic sense is missing in Belgian society.

Jun 17, 2020 12:35
Frank Lee

The tram operator did the right thing opening the doors. Better to have violent individuals out in the open than stuck with other potential victims.
Believe me, I feel for the guy and I'm not saying he was wrong protesting the fact that those 2 idiots weren't wearing a mask in such an enclosed space, just saying that there should be more officials enforcing the rules so that passengers don't have to start arguments on board.

Jun 17, 2020 16:35
Frank Lee

Passengers are to validate their card upon entry in a vehicle every time. You expose yourself if you don't, even if your card is a valid monthly or yearly pass. The reason is that STIB-MIVB collects information on how many passengers are on their lines, and it helps them when deciding where and when to add vehicles.

Jun 17, 2020 16:39

@Frank Lee
Thanks mate, I didn't know that. Just looked it up on their website:

"If you do not validate your card but have a valid season ticket, you could get an administrative fine.
If there is no valid season ticket on the MOBIB card, the basic tariffs in terms of infractions will be applied.
To activate your transport ticket and be allowed to travel on the STIB network. Afterwards, by doing a follow up of the validations, STIB can also adapt timetables on the long run, based on the need. All this happens anonymously and only concerns transportation data.

Thus, validating your MOBIB card has a big advantage: it allows us to collect very reliable and precise data about the passengers fluxes, without this data being linked to the identity of the traveller. Moreover, we can adapt our offer and improve the timetables and connections, use bigger vehicles where it is necessary, etc."

Jun 18, 2020 14:47