On August 10th, 2018, anti-government protests took place all around Romania, with the focus being on Bucharesti in Piaţa Victoriei (Victory Square). Multiple protesters travelled from abroad to participate in the rally, one of the biggest organised in Romania since early last year.

There were concerns that this protest will be different to others which have taken place recently, due to the large number of people expected to come. Police announced that it asked the General Inspectorate of the Romanian Police to take preventative pyrotechnic measures and control of the cars that have been parked in Victory Square. In a statement to local News.ro , they said, “The checks target the cars parked in the Piaţa Victoriei area and aims to ensure the protection of the citizens who will be in this area, as well as those who will transit it”.

At the peak of the protest, over 180,000 people were present in Victory Square, however, Liviu Dragnea, the leader of PSD, estimated that there were over 600,000 people in attendance.

The Gendarmerie, similar to the military police or ‘riot police’ in other countries, were also present in the square during the protest and said that they will not tolerate any violence, and have strongly recommended those participating to behave in a civilised manner, respect the law and to avoid any conflicts of any kind.

Liviu Dragnea, president of PSD (Social Democratic Party), stated on Thursday during an interview with Romania TV, a local news station, that the protests on Friday are political and as leaders of opposition parties, they will also be present in Victory Square, and hopes for a peaceful protest.

Other participating cities are Cluj-Napoca, Timisoara, Bistrita, Galati and Arad. However, these protests are also being held in other European cities, where there are large Romanian communities.

Protests in Bucharesti - August 10, 2018
Photo: Dan Mihai Balanescu    Source: Instagram @danmihaibalanescu

Clashes between participants occurred after 4:00pm, when a group of people forced their way into the Government’s yard. The police intervened by using tear gas, which resulted in some of those involved being taken away by emergency crews.

Protesters began shouting at the police, urging them to stop using the tear gas, as there were also children present in the crowds, which some people have reacted to by saying that children shouldn’t be present during such a high-risk protest.

440 People Hurt as Gendarmes clear Victory Square

At around 11pm, the police managed to clear Victory Square in Bucharesti by using tear gas and riot gear to force them out of the area. This sudden use of force, resulted in groups clashing with the police.

During the clashes, it was reported that protesters managed to take two pistols from the police and several fires were set around the outside of the square.

Over 440 people required medical attention as the day’s events, according to the ISU (Inspectorate for Emergency Situations) as the protests continued into the early hours of the night, one of the victims included the daughter of the USR (Save Romania Union) senator, Vlad Alexandrescu. He accused authorities of forceful intervention without coordination, as he stated, “They threw tear gas in the middle of the crowd. It didn’t matter that there were children, elder or sick people. Thousands of peaceful people were hit by clouds of tear gas.”

The president of Romania, Klaus Iohannis, also made a statement on Facebook translated as, “In a genuine democracy it is the right of every man to protest, but violence is not acceptable, regardless of political options. I strongly condemn the brutal intervention of the gendarmerie, strongly disproportionate to the manifestations of most people in the Victoria market. Trying to defeat people’s will through a violent reaction to law enforcement is a reprehensible solution. The Interior Minister must urgently give explanations for how he managed the events of this evening!”

It seems that also a number of members of the police force were also injured during the clashes. The Romanian Gendarmerie informed Mediafax.ro that one of the female gendarmes hit by several protesters in Victoriei Square is hospitalized at Floreasca Hospital in the Capital, with the suspicion of fracture at the cervical column.

The protesters were pushing against the fences and at the same time, some were throwing stones, bottles and other objects at law enforcement, which is said to have provoked the strong response of using tear gas and water canons to retaliate and push back those involved.

Jandarmeria Română released a video, displaying some of the resistance that they were facing throughout the day’s events, a reminder that there was violence and provocation directed at the police, which is being used to justify the strong retaliation by the gendarmes.

Mulțumim oamenilor care ne-au sprijinit și s-au comportat exemplar
Jandarmeria Română:
Noaptea trecută, în Piața Victoriei, au fost foarte mulți oameni care s-au comportat exemplar, cărora le mulțumim pentru spiritul civic de care au dat dovada!
Au fost, însă și unii care au înțeles că protestul înseamnă un război personal al lor cu jandarmeria.
Așa au stat lucrurile!

Their translated statement reads,

Last night in Victoria Square, there were a lot of people who behaved exemplary, to whom we thank for the civic spirit they gave proof of!

There were, however, some who understood that protest means a personal war with the gendarmerie.

That’s how it was!”

However, there were also videos display clearly, some of the unnecessary levels of violence and lack of professionalism conducted by some of the members of the forces who were there to ensure the safety and security of those protesting.

There were a number of videos displaying people who appear to have not been involved in anyway with the violent acts performed by some, holding their hands in the air in a bid to avoid any conflict with the forces, but yet they still were targeted by the gendarmes.

The post author states “This can’t be happening! People with no weapon to be hit and pulled like animals!!”.

Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă urgently requests a full report on the challenge of violence.

The government announced, “Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă strongly condemns violent actions in Bucharest on Friday evening organized by groups organized by the misappropriation of a civic demonstration. The reports of the Ministry of Internal Affairs show that the violence was gradually brought about by groups of well-organized individuals who attacked police forces, institutions and destroyed public goods in order to trigger a conflict between peaceful and orderly people, by weakening state authority”.

It is believed that the violence was purposely coordinated certain individuals, most belonging to football “firms”, which are known to use more extreme methods and violence in order to create unrest, but this is yet to be proved.

The Military Prosecutor’s Office is investigating the Gendarmerie and have opened a criminal file on the intervention in force. In a translated statement, they said,

“The Public Information and Public Relations Office of the Prosecutor’s Office attached to the High Court of Cassation and Justice is empowered to bring to the attention of the public the following:

On August 11, 2018, military prosecutors within the Territorial Military Prosecutor’s Office attached to the Bucharest Military Tribunal heard of the case, and a criminal file was filed regarding the gendarmes’ intervention and incidents at the Victory Square in Bucharest on August 10, 2018, and during the night of 10 to 11 August 2018.”

As the investigation progresses, the Public Information and Public Relations Office of the Prosecutor’s Office attached to HCCJ will inform the public of developments.


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