Up to 50,000 in peaceful second night of anti-govt protests in Bucharest as Romania reels in wake of violent riot police intervention during massive Friday demonstration
Mesaje protestatari. They piss on us
Some 50,000 people joined a new evening of anti-government protests in Bucharest on Saturday, a day after riot police forces violently ended a similar demonstration organised by Romanians working abroad. This time around, the protest was peaceful with no major incident, despite authorities failing to provide proper explanations for the way they used violence against harmless protesters a night before.
While on Friday night some 100,000 people are estimated to have taken part in the Bucharest protest, a consistent attendance of up to 50,000 was estimated for Saturday evening. They showed up to call for the dismissal of the government led by the Social Democratic Party (PSD), a party whose leadership - including its President, House speaker Liviu Dragnea - includes people convicted or investigated for acts of corruption.
Protests including thousands of people also took place in major cities across the country, including Sibiu, Iasi, Cluj, Timisoara, Brasov, Constanta and others on Saturday.
Protests were initially planned to focus on one day - Friday, when a large number of Romanians working abroad, the Diaspora, convened to Bucharest for a major protest against the PSD government and its mastermind Liviu Dragnea. The Diaspora, which is estimated at over 3 million Romanians at a total population of about 20 million, is a major economic and social force which had previously made a strong impact in political issues, most recently in the 2014 elections.
But the Friday protest was marked by continuous acts of violence the riot police directed against innocent civilians. A small number of violent persons who attacked the police were used as a pretext for tear gas attacks and even a water cannon intervention by the gendarmes against harmless people.
Several hundred people needed medical intervention. Among those attacked were several journalists, including a HotNews.ro editor and a foreign journalist working for the Austrian public television, who were harmed despite presenting themselves in their professional quality.
In the wake of the attack on the ORF crew, Austrian Chancellor intervened on Twitter, condemning the Bucharest violence.
In Bucharest, both the Gendarmerie and Interior minister Carmen Dan, who is seen as a crony of Dragnea's - defended the riot police action and said it was justified by the existence of violent people among protesters. They claimed warnings have been given to the people. And they failed to present any excuse or explanation for the many incidents - supported by video proof - when gendarmes attacked harmless people in group or individually throughout the evening.
And PSD leader Liviu Dragnea issued a press release claiming that the violence was encouraged by the opposition and that President Klaus Iohannis - the main political figure currently opposing the PSD-led governing alliance - was the "political sponcore of violence and extremist behaviour".