Police fire tear gas as Romanians rally against government

Remigio Civitarese
Agosto 12, 2018

The rally was deemed the Diaspora Protest and was organized on social media by Romanian expats from various European Union countries.

Tens of thousands staged peaceful protests in other Romanian cities.

Scores were injured in the Romanian capital Bucharest when riot police used water cannons and tear gas against anti-corruption demonstrators.

Video footage on social media showed police beating non-violent protesters who had been putting their hands up.

Hundreds of the protesters tried to break through the police cordon and officers in riot gear responded with tear gas and pepper spray, forcing the demonstrators back.

More than 400 people required medical assistance, the emergency intervention agency ISU said, including two riot police who became separated from their unit.

President Klaus Iohannis condemned on Friday night the disproportionate use of force against protesters and said he will ask Minister of Interior Carmen Dan for explanations.

He wrote on Facebook: "I firmly condemn riot police's brutal intervention, strongly disproportionate to the actions of the majority of people in the square".

The protests were organized and promoted by groups of Romanians working overseas, angry at what they say is entrenched corruption, low wages and attempts by the PSD to weaken the judiciary in one of the European Union's most corrupt states. Messages projected on buildings around the square said "We are the people" and "No violence".

Around three to five million Romanians are thought to live overseas, some in the United Kingdom but most in Italy, Spain and Germany. According to Eurostat, Romanians overseas sent Euro 31.7 billion to the country between 2007 and 2017. They sent home just under $5 billion a year ago, a lifeline for rural communities in one of the EU's least developed countries.

"I left to give my children a better life, which was not possible here then", said Ostafi.

Protesters are upset about moves to weaken the judiciary and decriminalise some corruption offences.

"Unfortunately, it is still not possible, the. people who govern us are not qualified and they are corrupt", he said, adding he hoped the next parliamentary election would see a bigger turnout.

He praised Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi for her efforts and said he was forced to sign the decree after being ordered to do so by the Constitutional Court.

Romania ranks as one of the most corrupt countries in the European Union and Brussels keeps its justice system under special monitoring.

Podut said: "Almost all of the public sector is malfunctioning, it must be changed completely and replaced with capable people".

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