Romania’s largest protests in decades show no signs of slowing
An estimated 500,000 protesters have taken to the streets across Romania over the past week, and the crowds show no sign of going home – despite a government U-turn on the corruption decree which originally sparked the demonstrations.
Monday was the seventh day of nationwide protests, following a weekend of rallies which saw the largest crowds so far. While the demonstrations began as a stand against the government decree, they have now expanded to demand wider political reform – with some calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu, a member of the Social Democrats (PSD).
The protests seen last week, the largest since the fall of communist leader Nicolae Ceaușescu in 1989, have been credited with forcing the government to repeal the law which would have pardoned some corruption convictions – a move which could have let off many of the PSD’s own officials – including Liviu Dragnea, the leader of the PSD.
However protesters remain skeptical as to whether the decree will disappear for good. As a 300,000 strong crowd gathered in Bucharest on Sunday, many people told VICE News they they fear the government, which has only been in power a month, plans to redraft the law and force it through parliament.
Octavia Cornea, 32, told VICE News that she does not trust the authorities to drop the decree entirely: “I don’t believe them, I won’t believe it until I see it.” When asked about the efficacy of the protests, she added: “Nothing has been as big as this. Protesting is becoming more mainstream, people are learning that it’s a key part of democracy – we are no longer afraid.”
With many families attending, Sunday’s protests were peaceful. The national anthem was sung, along with chants of “thieves” and “resign.” The protesters had even set up various laser shows in Victory Square, one of which projected words on to government buildings stating, amongst other things, “Resign” and “Dragnea, Romania is not yours.”
Some protesters have said they will continue to take to the streets until the decree is totally withdrawn, while others feel that only the resignation of the government will quell dissent from a public weary of the systemic corruption which has blighted their lives.
Mircea Serdin, a 32 year old student, told VICE News that he’s been out protesting since the corruption decree was first announced. “I consider the legalization of theft and the abuse of power [to be] totally unacceptable … So many people have turned out to show the world the injustice that is being done here and effectively all the government are doing is saying okay we will leave the law for now.”
Grindeanu has so far rejected calls for his government to stand down, saying that they have “a responsibility to the people who voted for us.” He also stated that he will not be resigning either.
Cover: Dan Bateman