Tens of thousands of people went to the streets for the fourth day in a row on Friday evening to protests against an emergency ordinance that may weaken the fight against corruption in Romania. The weekend is expected to bring even bigger rallies as people are determined to get the Government to withdraw the ordinance than partly decriminalizes abuse of office, which starts producing its effects on February 11.
Update 2: Over 120,000 people, according to TVR, maybe 150,000 according to Digi24 and Hotnews.ro were in Bucharest’s Victoriei Square at 22:00 (Opening photo: Dan Mihai Balanescu). They sang Romania’s national anthemn Desteapta-te, Romane! (Wake up, Romanian!) – video by Romania’s public television TVR. Between 250,000 and 300,000 people protested all around Romania.
Update: Between 70,000 and 80,000 people were estimated to be in Bucharest’s Victoriei Square on Friday evening, at 21:30, according to Digi24.ro and Hotnews.ro. The biggest protest so far, which took place on Wednesday evening, gathered between 120,000 and 150,000 people in front of the Government’s headquarters.
Over 40,000 people had gathered in Bucharest’s Victoriei Square by 20:45, according to Hotnews.ro estimates, and the number was growing. After three days of protests, including the biggest demonstrations in Romania in the last 25 years, which took place on Wednesday, the people coming to the square are more organized. They have drums, vuvuzelas, and banners with creative messages against the Government and the Social Democratic Party (PSD) that supports it.
Five big puppets representing PSD leader Liviu Dragnea, Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu, former PM Victor Ponta, justice minister Florin Iordache, and Senate president Calin Popescu Tariceanu dressed as inmates are carried around the square with protesters booing them. In the middle of the square, people can find boxes with already written banners or white paper to write their own messages. Tens of green lasers are also projected on the façade of the Government building, according to Hotnews.ro.
Big protests also take place in other big cities in Romania. In Cluj-Napoca and Timisoara, there were over 15,000 people in the street, In Sibiu there were 14,000, in Iasi – 7,000, in Brasov – 8000, in Constanta – 6,000, according to various sources. Thousands have also joined the demonstrations in other cities all over the country.
In total, about 130,000 people were estimated to participate in these manifestations all over the country, according to Digi24.ro.
Over the weekend, the protests are expected to get even bigger, with some estimating one million people in the streets. More people who haven’t been able to join the protests this week will be able to do so in the weekend when they don’t have to go to work. Moreover, the weather is also getting warmer. On Wednesday evening, more than 120,000 protested in Bucharest and 300,000 all over Romania, despite negative temperatures, in the biggest demonstrations of the last 25 years.
A day protest is also scheduled to take place in Bucharest’s Victoriei Square, on Saturday at 11:00, where families can bring their children. “They bought the hooligans, we bring our children,” is the protest’s motto. The participants to this protest plan to march towards the Parliament’s Palace and make a human chain around the building. Some 2,200 people have confirmed they would take part in this event, according to the dedicated Facebook page. The protests is called “Education for democracy,” and is organized by the Coruptia Ucide (Corruption Kills) Facebook group.
Another event of the same group shows that some 7,000 people have confirmed and another 6,500 are interested to come to Bucharest from other cities over the weekend, to join the protests in the capital.
The protesters determination has only increased after Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu said on Thursday that the Government didn’t plan to withdraw the controversial ordinance.
However, on Friday, the people in the street got some hope that the ordinance may be declared unconstitutional after Ombudsman Victor Ciorbea decided to attack the bill at the Constitutional Court.
The international reactions to the ordinance continued to come, with the U.S. State Department issuing another warning that the Government’s decision may undermine the rule of law in Romania.