A Romanian anti-government protest turned violent on Friday night, with almost 250 people injured after protesters clashed with the police.
An estimated 100,000 protesters, including many who had returned home from abroad for the occasion, converged on Bucharest’s central Piata Victoriei, calling upon the Social Democrat-led government to resign. They criticised what they perceive as attempts to weaken rule of law, including the dismissal of Romania’s top anti-corruption prosecutor one month ago.
The demonstration began peacefully, but when protesters attempted to breach the barricades in front of the government building, the police responded forcefully, eventually using tear gas and water cannons.
President Klaus Iohannis condemned the use of force on the protesters, calling upon the minister of interior to explain the actions of the police.
“In an authentic democracy every citizen has the right to protest, but violence is unacceptable, regardless of political options,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “Trying to defeat people’s will through a violent reaction to law enforcement is a reprehensible solution.”
The event, called the Diaspora Protest, was organised via social media by Romanian expats living across the European Union. About one-sixth of the country’s working age population lives and works abroad, sending crucial remittances home to one of the EU’s poorest countries.
The event is the latest in a series of protests in Romania against the Social Democrats. The largest, in February 2017, brought half a million people to the streets to show their opposition to a government decree decriminalising corruption.
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