Riot police used tear gas and a water cannon against peaceful protesters including women, children and elderly people on Friday night as some 100,000 people joined a protest in Bucharest against the current government led by the Social Democratic Party (PSD). Gendarmes showed up with water cannons and mounted police and, while appearing not to have used them by late in the evening, it resorted to an unprecedented level of force against the people, while a limited number of protesters threw various objects at them.
According to official reports, by 10 p.m. local time, over 200 persons needed medical assistance following violence between the gendarmes and protesters.
The protest was organised by the Romanian Diaspora, returning home for a display of massive opposition to the current government, led by the PSD party and its leader Liviu Dragnea. The Diaspora, which numbers a huge number of working Romanians - more than 3 millions, compared to a total population of just under 20 million - aimed at showing its disagreement with the policies of the PSD government, especially with attempts to change every rule and law of the country that would allow Dragnea and other top officials to go unpunished for corruption.
- The protest in Bucharest was supported by protests attended by tens of thousands of people in the cities of Cluj, Sibiu, Brasov, Timisoara, Iasi.
The protest started in Bucharest's Victoriei Square, where the government HQ is situated, early on Friday, but was mostly peaceful throughout the day, when several hundred people, mostly from the Diaspora or across the country were present there.
But it turned violent in the late afternoon, when large numbers of protesters began flooding the square and forced a standoff with riot police close to the entrance of the government HQ. That was the moment when the riot police started using tear gas, first incidentally, later on a very large scale and indiscriminately.
Gendarmes tried to justified their action by claiming that violent representatives of football galleries were among the crowd. Some protesters threw bottles, other plastic objects - and later pieces of street concrete - at gendarmes.
The incidents failed to dissipate the protest, with numbers climbing into late evening. At the height of the demonstration, some 100,000 people are estimated to have attended the protest.
By 11 p.m., several violent protesters started beating two gendarmes. Other demonstrators tried to protect the gendarmes with their own bodies.
Soon afterwards, the riot police intervened forcefully, using tear gas and the water cannon, in an effort to evacuate the square.
Late in the night, as most of the people have left the square and clashes were still taking place on nearby streets, President Klaus Iohannis called the riot police interventions disproportionate and called on Interior minister Carmen Dan to explain them. Carmen Dan is seen as a crony of Liviu Dragnea's, who handpicked her for her current position.