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Romanians Hit Streets Again For Antigovernment Protests

Romanians took to the streets in Bucharest for the third night of antigovernment protests on August 12.
Romanians took to the streets in Bucharest for the third night of antigovernment protests on August 12.

Thousands of Romanians rallied for the third night in a row, protesting against corruption and demanding the resignation of the current government.

Protesters in the capital, Bucharest, on August 12 waved Romanian, NATO, and European Union flags at a rally in a square near government offices.

Protesters shouted "Resign!" and assailed the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) as "the red plague."

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Two nights earlier, rallies turned violent after riot police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters. Some demonstrators lobbed rocks, bottles, and smoke bombs at riot police. About 500 people were reported injured in the clashes.

Police denied using excessive force, saying officers acted in a "gradual and proportionate" manner.

Local media estimated the crowd in the August 10 rally at 30,000-80,000 in Bucharest, with tens of thousands more demonstrating in other cities. No official figures were available.

Crowds were somewhat smaller on August 12 than they were the previous two nights.

But participants still expressed their anger over the leftist government, accusing it of corruption.

"We should make our presence felt, and they should understand that they are not wanted anymore at the country's helm," Cuc Valeriu, a factory worker, told the AFP news agency.

Coming Home To Protest

Many of those protesting were expat Romanians who had returned from their new homes abroad after organizers called for rallies on social media.

President Klaus Iohannis, a critic of the left-wing government, has condemned "the brutal intervention of riot police” in the protests, but he also criticized some demonstrators for breaking through police lines guarding government buildings.

After winning power in 2016, the PSD attempted to decriminalize several corruption offenses through an emergency decree, leading to thousands of Romanians taking to the streets in protest and forcing the party to back down.

Iohannis, the European Commission, and the U.S. State Department criticized the proposed changes to judicial legislation, saying they could derail the rule of law.

Iohannis has been at loggerheads with the PSD, accusing it of attempting to weaken the fight against corruption, putting pressure on the judicial system, and of implementing bad fiscal policies.

Romania is one the poorest members of the European Union, with an average monthly wage of about 520 euros ($590).

It is also one of the EU countries most plagued by corruption and has seen frequent protests in the past year and a half.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Moldovan Service, AP, DW, AFP, Reuters, and Romania-Insider
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