Romanian riot police have fired tear gas, water cannons and pepper spray to subdue thousands of anti-corruption protesters in violent clashes.
Shocking photographs of today’s mass demonstration in Bucharest show an officer gripping an elderly man around his throat, a policeman preventing a man from helping a woman in a wheelchair, and water being blasted from police trucks into people’s faces.
About 100 people required medical attention after inhaling the gases, while 10 police officers were injured by hurled stones and bottles, the emergency services said.
Local media said that between 30,000 and 50,000 people turned out for the protest, included many Romanian expatriates who returned home especially to show their anger at the levels of official corruption.
Riot police spray tear gas while scuffling with protesters outside the government headquarters in Bucharest, Romania, today
Local media said that between 30,000-50,000 people turned out for the protest in Bucharest, included many Romanian expatriates who returned home especially to show their anger at the levels of official corruption
A riot policeman grabs the arm of a man trying to assist a woman in a wheelchair in the street during today’s clashes
Riot police deploy a water canon against protesting crowds outside the government headquarters, in Bucharest, Romania
Above, an elderly man at the demonstration is gripped around his throat by police officers, while other protesters were pushed to the ground
Standing guard, anti-riot police attend the massive demonstration in front of the Romanian Government headquarters on August 10
There were dramatic scenes as people clashed with police, with demonstrators running, above, as officers charge the crowd
People mob riot police officers who fell and were left behind during a charge to clear the square during protests outside the government headquarters, in Bucharest
Last year those working abroad sent €4.3billion back to their families at home, yet ‘unfortunately nothing has changed in Romania,’ said Ileana Anghel, a Romanian national living in Spain.
‘We want to see modern roads and schools and above all to not have to pay bribes to the left and right,’ added Anghel who, like her husband, Stefan, works in the Alicante region.
They joined tens of thousands of protesters who rallied against the ruling Social Democrat (PSD) government in Bucharest and other cities across Romania, after demonstrations were organised and promoted by groups of Romanians working abroad.
Expats are fed up with the left-wing government’s failure to spend the hard-earned cash they send home on modernising infrastructure, such as roads, and improving services in the country, which ranks as one of the EU’s most corrupt states – Brussels is currently keeping its justice system under special monitoring.
Riot police spray tear gas while scuffling with protesters, as Romanians who live abroad staged anti-government protests calling on the left-wing government to resign and an early election
Riot police fired tear gas into the crowds during protests outside the government headquarters, in Bucharest. Romanians who live abroad staged anti-government protests calling on the left-wing government to resign and have an early election
Riot police wearing heavy body armour used pepper spray on the protesters. Demonstrators waved Romanian and European Union flags under a scorching sun, chanting ‘Party of thieves’ and called on the government to resign
Riot police are seen detaining a protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, above. In Bucharest, some protesters attempted to force their way through security lines guarding the government building
A woman hugs a man after falling out of her wheelchair during the scuffles. Thousands joined a rally in Bucharest on Friday staged by Romanians working abroad to protest against entrenched corruption, low wages and attempts by the ruling Social Democrat Party (PSD) to weaken the judiciary
A man flashes victory signs next to a riot police line outside the government headquarters. Several politicians from the ruling coalition derided the rally in the run up, saying they did not understand why the diaspora would protest
Riot police lead away a protester as a woman photographs the incident at the Government HQ. Romania ranks as one of the EU’s most corrupt states and Brussels keeps its justice system under special monitoring
Since the Social Democrats won power in 2016, the government has proposed new laws that critics say weaken the nation’s fight against corruption.
An estimated four million Romanians are living abroad, and some say they left because of corruption, low wages and lack of opportunities.
‘We don’t want our country to be governed by thieves who line their own pockets,’ said Georgeta Anghel, 43, who has lived in Valencia, Spain, for 14 years.
‘If nothing changes here, what kind of future will our son have in the future?’
Mihai Podut, who left Romania in 2014, holding his country’s flag at the anti-government rally. Protests have occurred outside government headquarters regularly since the Social Democrats took power in early 2017 and tried to decriminalise several corruption offences
Protesters help a man who fell as they tried to push through a riot police line. A hundred people required medical attention after inhaling the gases, while 10 police officers were injured by hurled stones and bottles, the emergency services said
Protesters waved Romanian, EU, Spanish, Italian and other flags, yelling, ‘justice, not corruption’ and called the ruling party ‘the red plague’ outside government offices in the capital.
Demonstrators scuffled with riot police when they tried to break through a police line guarding the government offices. At least one man was detained.
Hundreds of thousands have signed a petition demanding a law that would ban people charged with corruption and other offences from office, but it is unlikely to pass Parliament where the Social Democrats and their allies have a majority.
Liviu Dragnea, the head of the Social Democrats, has received a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence for abuse of power in office.
He is appealing against that decision, and is unable to be prime minister due to another conviction in 2016 for vote-rigging.
Cristina Andrei arrived to join the rally in Bucharest from Stockholm, Sweden, where she lives now with her two sons.
‘I’ve come here for my children, who don’t know how to read or write Romanian,’ the 42-year-old cashier said.
‘This country is rich and beautiful but it’s run by thieves.’
Why are Romanian expats protesting against the government?
Among the protesters in Bucharest were 60-year-old Vlad and his wife who flew in from New York where they have lived for 30 years.
‘Corruption and embezzlement, which profit the ruling class, are what bothers me,’ said Vlad, an estate agent in the US.
Last month Romanian President Klaus Iohannis sacked top anti-graft prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi, who was considered a symbol of the fight against graft in one of the EU’s most corruption-plagued members.
With Kovesi at the helm, the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (DNA) had led a crackdown on corruption among local and national elected officials in recent years, earning accusations of abuse of power and the enmity of many in Romania’s political class.
Around four million Romanians work abroad from an overall population of 20 million. Half of the expatriates are living in Italy and Spain, according to official figures.
They sent home just under $5billion last year, a lifeline for rural communities in one of the EU’s least developed countries.
Yet, when those living abroad return home to visit family and friends, they cannot see the fruits of their labour in the form of new roads, modernised schools, or updated infrastructure.
Mihai Podut, 27, a construction worker who left in 2014, first for France and later Germany, said: ‘Almost all of the public sector is malfunctioning, it must be changed completely and replaced with capable people. I would ask our ruling politicians to switch places with us, work the way we do and see what that is like.’
Stefan and Ileana Anghel, Romanian nationals living in Spain, waved a Spanish flag at the Bucharest protest after travelling across Europe to take part in the demonstration.
‘Unfortunately nothing has changed in Romania,’ Ileana told AFP.
‘We want to see modern roads and schools and above all to not have to pay bribes to the left and right,’ added Ileana who, like her husband, works in the Alicante region.