Ro­ma­ni­ans protest cor­rup­tion

Sec­ond straight day of demon­stra­tions

The Times-Tribune - - WORLD - BY ALISON MUTLER

BUCHAREST, Ro­ma­nia — Tens of thou­sands of Ro­ma­ni­ans held an­other anti-gov­ern­ment protest Satur­day a day af­ter a pre­vi­ous demon­stra­tion turned vi­o­lent, leav­ing 455 peo­ple in need of med­i­cal treat­ment.

Protesters car­ry­ing Ro­ma­nian, Euro­pean Union and other flags ral­lied Satur­day out­side gov­ern­ment of­fices in Bucharest, the cap­i­tal — the same place where the protest Fri­day had de­gen­er­ated into vi­o­lence.

“Have no fear! Ro­ma­ni­ans will rise up!” and “You thieves!” they yelled. Protesters blew vu­vuze­las and shone the words “Down with the gov­ern­ment” on the gov­ern­ment of­fices.

Crit­ics say Ro­ma­nia has lost ground in fight­ing cor­rup­tion since the rul­ing So­cial Demo­cratic Party as­sumed power in 2016. They are urg­ing the gov­ern­ment to re­sign and call a new elec­tion.

Sorin Radu, who works in IT, said he was protest­ing “be­cause we have a gov­ern­ment where many are cor­rupt.

“The peo­ple who rule have no con­nec­tion with or­di­nary peo­ple. I’m here to try and change some­thing,” he said.

“We want to re­turn to Ro­ma­nia, but there’s too much cor­rup­tion and the health care is dis­mal,” said Is­abela Con­duruta, a 45-yearold who’s worked as a cleaner for 12 years in Ger­many.

Ear­lier Satur­day, Ro­ma­nian riot po­lice de­fended their use of force at a Fri­day night protest in which 70 peo­ple, in­clud­ing 11 riot po­lice, had to be taken to the hos­pi­tal. Dozens of oth­ers were treated at the scene.

Riot po­lice spokesman Mar­ius Mil­i­taru said po­lice are pur­su­ing charges against eight peo­ple for the vi­o­lence.

Mil­i­taru said of­fi­cers were or­dered by Bucharest of­fi­cials to evac­u­ate Vic­tory Square late Fri­day af­ter an hours­long protest in front of gov­ern­ment of­fices that drew tens of thou­sands de­mand­ing the gov­ern­ment’s res­ig­na­tion.

An­other po­lice spokesman, Georgian Enache, said “the le­git­i­mate state vi­o­lence” was jus­ti­fied be­cause protesters had been warned sev­eral times to leave the square.

Riot po­lice fired tear gas and wa­ter can­nons to quell protesters. Some peo­ple lobbed rocks, bot­tles and smoke bombs at riot po­lice.

In­te­rior Min­is­ter Car­men Dan said the riot po­lice hadn’t “in­ter­vened against peace­ful protesters but against dan­ger­ous hooli­gans who at­tacked the state’s author­ity.”

But Pres­i­dent Klaus Io­han­nis, a critic of the left-wing gov­ern­ment, con­demned “the bru­tal in­ter­ven­tion of the riot po­lice.”

Three jour­nal­ists also said they were roughed up by po­lice.

Aus­trian pub­lic broad­caster ORF said Satur­day that a cam­era­man cov­er­ing the protest was hit by po­lice with trun­cheons and the TV pre­sen­ter with him was shoved up against a wall. A jour­nal­ist film­ing the rally for Ro­ma­nia’s Hot­news on­line web­site said he was kicked and shoved by riot po­lice.

VADIM GHIRDA / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Peo­ple mob riot po­lice of­fi­cers who fell and were left be­hind dur­ing a charge to clear the square dur­ing protests Fri­day out­side the gov­ern­ment head­quar­ters in Bucharest, Ro­ma­nia.

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