Tens of thousands of protesters rallied against the ruling Social Democrat (PSD) government on Friday in cities across Romania and the capital Bucharest where riot police fired tear gas into the crowd and hundreds needed medical attention.
The protests were organised and promoted by groups of Romanians working abroad, angry at what they say is entrenched corruption, low wages and attempts by the PSD to weaken the judiciary in one of the European Union’s most corrupt states.
In Bucharest, some protesters attempted to force their way through security lines guarding the government building. Others threw bottles and rocks at riot police, who said groups of “provocateurs” were present in the square.
As the protest continued well into the night, riot police used a water canon and increasingly sprayed tear gas into the crowd. Video footage posted on social media show police beating non-violent protesters holding their hands up.
More than 400 people required medical assistance, the emergency intervention agency ISU said, including two riot police who got separated from their unit. Tens of thousands staged peaceful protests in other Romanian cities.
Centrist Romanian President Klaus Iohannis condemned the police’s disproportionate use of force.
“I firmly condemn riot police’s brutal intervention, strongly disproportionate to the actions of the majority of people in the square,” he said on his Facebook page.
“The interior ministry must explain urgently the way it handled tonight’s events.”
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