Anti-government protest faces government violence in Bucharest

Starting on August 10, anti-government protests attracted 150,000 Romanians. Gendarmerie forcibly intervened with tear gas, pepper spray and water cannons, resulting in more than 400 people needing medical care, including 30 gendarmes.

Delia Budurca
Delia Budurca NewsMavens, Romania

 Anti-government protest faces government violence in Bucharest 

 - NewsMavens
Romania protest, YouTube

Why this story matters:

The protest was very peaceful, except for a few exceptions, yet the police responded violently. The strategy chosen by the gendarmerie  -- to scatter the crowd violently instead of extracting the few violent persons from of the crowd, displeased Romanians and has generated ample discussions in the public space.

This was the first such intervention -- with tear gas, pepper spray and water cannon -- by the Romanian government against its own citizens since 1989.

The protests continued throughout Saturday and Sunday without any violence.

Protesters demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, and of the head of the Chamber of Deputies, Liviu Dragnea, who is also the head of the governing party, PSD.

Announced a few weeks ago, the protest took place in Bucharest's Victory Square, near the Romanian Government headquarters. The protesters consisted of the diaspora --  Romanians working or learning abroad -- as well as citizens dissatisfied with the current government.

On Monday evening, President Klaus Iohannis gave a televised speech in which he stated that after 3 days they still had not discovered those responsible for what happened on Friday evening. Previously, blame had been laid at the feet of the prefect of Bucharest and the Interior Minister, Carmen Dan, by the team of PSD leader, Liviu Dragnea.

Details from the story:

  • More than 400 people required medical intervention, including several gendarmes.
  • By Monday, 33 people had filed a criminal complaint
  • Authorities identified two of the violent citizens who participated in the hijacking of two gendarmes, but they were sheltered by peaceful demonstrators. They were ultras from the galleries of football teams.
  • Friday night, after a several hour lull, the gendarmerie attempted to disperse the crowd with tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and water cannons.
  • President Iohannis reacted stated on his Facebook page that in an authentic democracy people's right to protest must be protected and that the Interior Minister must urgently explain the unwarranted roughness of his speech.
  • PSD President and Chamber of Deputies, Liviu Dragnea, accused the president of being the political sponsor of the events, alongside opposition parties, and that he wants to replace the current government with his own.
  • Subsequently, the gendarmerie explained that they were challenged by violent citizens who had infiltrated the crowd, and whom they could not isolate, so they had to disperse the crowd.
  • Although right-wing parties -- USR and PNL -- initially backed the protest, they have since disassociated themselves.

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