The silent minority awakens: Colectiv club tragedy brings thousands to the streets for peaceful protests in Bucharest

Over 10,000 people gathered in Bucharest’s Victoriei Square on Tuesday evening to protest after the tragedy in club Colectiv on Friday night, which left 32 dead.

Some of them shouted against Prime Minister Victor Ponta, deputy Prime Minister Gabriel Oprea, and District 4 mayor Cristian Popescu Piedone asking for their resignations. However, most people just stood in the square peacefully saying they wouldn’t leave until someone took the responsibility for the tragedy.

„Assasins!”, „We won’t leave until you leave!” and „The day we give in is the day we die!” were some of the slogans the protesters displayed. The later was a line from the opening song that rock band Goodbye to Gravity played in the concert on Friday in club Colectiv that ended so tragically.

People started gathering in Bucharest’s University Square around 18:00, after rallying on Facebook for a prostest against District 4 mayor Cristian Popescu Piedone, who had signed the paper that authorised the club to function. On the night of the tragedy, Piedone said the city hall had no responsibility and that the license had been legally granted.

The number of people in the University Square started to grow, and after about one hour they became so many that they blocked the traffic on Magheru Boulevard, near the Intercontinental Hotel. They then decided to head towards the Government’s building in Victoriei Square. By the time they got there, they were about 13,000, according to estimates presented by Digi 24 news station, or even more, according to other sources.

The manifestation was peaceful and at no time did the protesters engage the security forces that monitored the crowd. Most of the people in the square were young intelectuals, corporate employees, and students, people 20 to 40 years old, of the same generation with those dead or injured in club Colectiv.

After standing about two hours in Victoriei Square, the people started moving towards the Interior Ministry’s headquarters on Calea Victoriei, near the Romanian Athenaeum. They were shouting against Interior Minister Gabriel Oprea, who had already attracted public dislike after a motor policeman who opened his motorcade died two weeks ago after falling in an open pit in Bucharest. Oprea failed to explain why he used a motorcade to travel through Bucharest.

The protesters then went down on Calea Victoriei and split up. Some went to the Parliament’s Palace while others went to the District 4 City Hall, asking for the mayor’s resignation. The number of people in the streets passed 25,000, according to updated estimates presented by local televisions. At midnight, about 8,000 people were still out in the University Square, where the march had started six hours earlier, despite the cold.

This kind of protest is a first in Bucharest and Romania, as many of these people are part of what some call „the silent minority”, which represents the people who don’t have political sympathies and are generally fed up with all the political class and the ineptitude of the public administration as a whole.

These people, who have been largely ignored by politicians in the past 25 years, as many of them didn’t even go out to vote, have shown their power for the first time last year, when they helped Klaus Iohannis win the presidential elections, after Victor Ponta’s Government showed an utter disregard for Romanian voters abroad. They rally via social media and have no political platform or demands other than “they should all leave” and “corruption must end”. Thousands of other protesters have gathered to support them in Brasov and other big cities in Romania on Tuesday evening.

The question right now is: who will take their message and bring the change these people demand?

Comment: The death of men, the resurrection of a people

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(Photo source: Digi 24)

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