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Romanians stone police as anti-government anger grows

Published time: January 21, 2012 07:27
Edited time: January 21, 2012 11:29

AFP Photo / Daniel Mihailescu

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Romania is in the grip of its worst protests in over a decade. For the second week running, amid outbreaks of violence, demonstrators have taken a stand against a government they say has brought in low wages, cuts and rising corruption.

At least 7,000 people took to the streets of Bucharest on Thursday to demand the resignation of the country’s government and its president, Traian Basescu.

The protests that have been raging since last Sunday have already left at least 60 people injured. On Thursday alone, about 100 people were questioned by the police on suspicion of throwing stones and using iron fences to attack police lines.

RT’s correspondent Tom Barton, who is currently in Bucharest, witnessed fighting that broke out between police and protesters on Thursday.

Reporting from the middle of the rallying crowd, he saw protesters throwing bottles and fences at the police. “This is the violence everyone hoped they could avoid today but it has broken out after all,” he said.

Earlier in the day, thousands poured into the Romanian capital to demand the resignation of the Romanian president. In an address to the crowd, opposition politicians called for the government to quit. 

“Some people are upset because they have lost their jobs, others because their pension was cut and others because they are being humiliated every day. But there is one thing that unites us all: that we all want Basescu to leave!” Viktor Ponta of Romania’s Social Democratic Party told the protestors.

“You have come from all over the country. That means that this riot has begun and it must not stop until we reach what we want, what we need,” said Mircea Diaconu from the opposition National Liberal Party.

As the rally continued, police advanced on the crowd using tear gas, and the mood of the protesters grew more militant.

“The youth nowadays, what choice do we have? To go out and start to steal, to start mugging people for a purse?” young demonstrator told RT. “Shall we go to Italy, Spain and Germany to start to steal? What for? We want jobs!”

As the crowd broke up, the effects of the tear gas and the scale of the arrests became apparent. 

Protesters have been on the streets day and night to demand far-reaching political change in Romania. However, with violent clashes on the rise, the road to reform looks set to be long and hard-fought.

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