‘Diaspora Protest’ against Romania’s Social Democrat Cabinet Turns Violent in Bucharest
Clashes erupted between riot police and demonstrators in Romania’s capital Bucharest during a “diaspora” rally demanding the resignation of the country’s Social Democrat (PSD) government.
The protests, which also took place in other cities across Romania, were organized by Romanians living and working abroad who have been enraged over the ruling party’s moves to debilitate the country’s judiciary and roll back progress made against corruption in the past few years.
The continuing rampant corruption problem and the substantially lower wages compared with other member states of the European Union added to the grievances of the protesters.
The protest in Bucharest on Friday, August 10, took a violent turn, with more than 400 people getting injured, including two riot police officers, according to Romania’s emergency intervention agency ISU, as cited by The Romania Insider.
Later into the evening the riot police in Bucharest used tear gas and water cannons as many protesters tried to force their way into government buildings. Reports said some demonstrators, possibly affiliated with football (soccer) fan clubs, provoke the police by throwing bottles and pavestones at them.
However, videos shared on social media also showed police officers beating non-violent protesters holding up their hands.
According to various estimates, the number of people who rallied in the “diaspora protest” in Bucharest’s Victory (Victoriei) Square ranged between 50,000 and 100,000.
At 9 pm local time, the protesters lit up their mobile phones. Thousands of others took part in peaceful rallies in other cities across Romania.
Many of the participants in Friday’s “diaspora rally” traveled back to Romania from thousands of kilometers away. They were also joined by local residents indignant of the moves and policies of Romania’s Social Democrat government.
Civil society protests in Romania have been flaring up since early 2017 over policies seemingly designed to reverse progress in the country’s fight against corruption.
Some of the protesters showed up in Bucharest on Friday armed with forks and axes made of cardboard mocking a fake news story broadcast earlier this year by a Romanian TV station which claimed that armed protesters would try to stage a revolt in the capital.
Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis, who has been at odds with the Social Democrat Cabinet, condemned what he said was excessive use of police force against the diaspora rally.
“[I condemn] the brutal intervention [of the riot police], strongly disproportionate when compared to the behavior of the majority of people in Victoriei Square,” Iohannis wrote in a Facebook post.
“The attempt to break the people’s will through a violent law enforcement reaction is condemnable. The interior ministry must urgently explain the way she managed this evening’s events,” the Romanian President added.
(Banner image: Video grab from Romania Insider)