Police brutality at mass protests in Romania

The Romanian prosecution has launched an investigation after more than 400 protesters were injured at a mass demonstration on Friday. Tens of thousands of demonstrators - including many Romanians who live abroad - were protesting against corruption and demanding the resignation of the social-liberal government. For journalists the actions of the police raise many questions.

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Radio Europa Liberă (RO) /

Incompetent police use chemical weapon

The use of tear gas by the police was illegal, Radio Europa Liberă observes:

“Raul Pătrașcu of the University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Timișoara explained that the type of tear gas that was used is classified as a chemical weapon and is forbidden for use in wars in the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993. He also explained that the use of this tear gas at minute intervals can cause lasting damage, from lung complications to liver and heart disease. The police officers' linguistic gymnastics in their official justifications indicate that they operated on the very border of legality or even broke the law. The fact that over a period of several days they refused to explain to the military prosecutor what the components of the excessively used tear gas were proves not only that they are unprofessional, but also that their actions were deliberate.”

Krónika (RO) /

Thorough investigation needed

The government must launch all the necessary investigations as soon as possible, writes Krónika, the newspaper of the Hungarian minority:

“The main priority is to find out how the troublemakers mixed with the demonstrators and who was behind the whole thing. Moreover it must be clarified why the police used such brutality against all the demonstrators - including those who weren't acting violently. It's absolutely crucial that the responsible politicians be named and held to account so that this explosive situation doesn't escalate further. If the government attempts to let the investigations ground to a halt it will only fuel suspicions that it had something to do with the violence.”

Sega (BG) /

Romanians more progressive than Bulgarians

The protests in Bucharest show that Romanian society is miles ahead of Bulgarian society, Sega comments:

“When we see how Romanians are coming together from all over the world in Bucharest to protest against corruption in their country, we can only be ashamed. We purportedly suffer from the same chronic disease known as corruption, but the healing process seems to be faster for Romanians than for Bulgarians. ... In the years since they joined the EU the Romanians have managed to divide themselves into two social groups: the robbers and those who are robbed. ... While in Romania politicians of all colours are behind bars, with its indifference Bulgarian society makes it easy for the political elite to trample on the people.”

Adevărul (RO) /

Romanian state has used violence for years

Romania has utterly discredited itself this time, Ion M. Ionita writes in his blog with Adevărul:

“There have been unjustified acts of brutality at mass protests since 1989. The strategy was always the same: the central power decides that violence is to be used and then the demonstrators are held responsible. The Ultras [a group of fanatical supporters] had announced on Facebook that they were coming to the site of the demonstrations to beat people up! How easy it would have been to stop them and isolate them before they could do any harm! ... While here in Romania government propaganda is seeking to cover up the facts with bizarre conspiracy theories, at the international level the PSD government has discredited itself for good this time.”

Ukrajinska Prawda (UA) /

What will become of Ukraine's role model

Ukrayinska Pravda believes that a setback in the fight against corruption in Romania could bode ill for Ukraine:

“Ukraine regards Romania as a role model when it comes to fighting corruption. The national anti-corruption authority began under Laura Kövesi's leadership to investigate at the highest levels of power, and criminal proceedings were launched against a former head of government, relatives of an ex-president and incumbent members of government. If the resignation of the legendary anti-corruption warrior leads to a loss of momentum in the fight against corruption, this will serve as a signal to those who believe in the victorious power of corruption in the countries of Eastern Europe - also in Ukraine.”

Ziare (RO) /

Ruling party at the end of its tether

Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă's government bears responsibility for the political crisis and must accept the consequences, Ziare demands:

“The Romanians working abroad came home and were welcomed with tear gas and water cannons. The crisis in Romania provoked by the brutality of the security forces can only be resolved through the quick resignation of Prime Minister Dăncilă's government. If that doesn't happen, this political crisis will erode the current regime until the system collapses - at the latest when the European elections take place in 2019, and perhaps even sooner. The [social democratic ruling party] PSD is a political corpse: a party with mafia-like structures that has no ties with the people.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Corrupt state next in line for EU presidency

The EU should take a good look at Bucharest, Der Standard admonishes:

“What it will discover: a government advisor with the post of state secretary who wrote on Facebook that the participants in the latest protests should have been shot, not sprayed with water; a government official who explained that demonstrators would be well advised 'not to continue provoking, otherwise we'll come along with a million supporters and crush you'; the leader of a ruling party who has a criminal record for election fraud; a president who is demanding an investigation into the police brutality against the protests and who is being labelled as a 'sponsor of extremist rioting' by the party leader mentioned above; and a country that is set to take over the EU Council presidency from Austria in January.”

Club Z (BG) /

Bulgarian diaspora has also had enough

The fact that so many Romanians living outside Romania are protesting against the government in Bucharest is an entirely new phenomenon that could also be copied in Bulgaria, Club Z writes:

“Romanians living abroad send over three billion euros to their relatives at home each year. Does that sound familiar? They are protesting against the verbal attacks launched against them by the ruling politicians in their home country. Does that sound familiar? The Romanians living abroad who are protesting right now are being berated as the 'diaspora in rags', paid by Soros to destabilise the country. Does that sound familiar? ... Our leaders should be glad that the wave of protest hasn't swept across the Danube yet.”