Incepand de acum, incarcam cateva texte scrise, in romana sau engleza, de membri ai diasporei care au participat la Bucuresti la protestul de pe 10 august.
Text de: Tudor Barbarosie
I left Romania on July 7th, 2018. The day I booked my flight to the UK, I also booked a return flight for August 9th. There was already a lot of talk on Facebook about „diaspora’s” protest on August 10th, and I felt I had to be there.
I had taken part in most of the protests in Bucharest since January 2017, against a newly installed government in Romania, elected in December 2016. PSD had unfortunately won a landslide victory in the parliamentary elections of 2016 and was now in full swing trying to save their skins from prosecution, and we were out in Piata Victoriei as often as we possibly could trying to stop them. Sometimes successfully, most times frustratingly not so.
My decision to leave Romania was made in 2016. I had thought about it before, but that autumn Romania felt particularly suffocating. We finally had a government that was not corrupt, was competent and was doing the right things. However, they were losing a propaganda war. The mainstream media was demonizing them, and PSD seemed poised to score a huge win in the upcoming elections. I spoke to my wife and we decided that if that were to happen, we would leave. We had a young son and she was pregnant with our second. We decided they would not grow up in a country plagued by suffocating corruption, with crippled schools and hospitals, with politicians and public officials that were able to place themselves above the law. There were no financial reasons at all for our decision. I just realized I would probably fall under the definition of a political refugee :).
August 10th. I did not have any major expectations from the protest, I knew it wouldn’t end up in resignations or any immediate major political change. I was just hoping for a massive protest that would send the message that we are not giving up, and we’re still fighting them. That was all. And massive it was. I got there at around 7pm, with my wife, my 3yo son and some friends. The place was already packed. I did notice some things that were different from previous protests. The crowd that I saw was the usual one: lovely people, peaceful, young and old, children, pets. The main difference was the riot police having a massive presence, in combat gear, and the number of ambulances and fire trucks placed around the square. I had never seen anything like it. Also, I would constantly see groups of 3-4 people moving towards the front of the crowd. They looked different to most of us, they behaved differently. I did not think much of it at the time though, and stayed with my family and friends where we usually stayed, middle-back of the square. The first sign of trouble for us came at about 8:15. I had my son on my shoulders (he loved looking at the crowd from above) when I felt a weird smell, similar to burning tires. At the same time my son started crying saying to me ‘daddy, my eyes are burning!’. I couldn’t comprehend what was going on. My wife said ‘it’s tear gas’ and signaled we should run back. I took my son in my arms trying to shield him as much as I could from both the tear gas and the panicked crowd and we headed to safety. I had a short discussion with my wife, I told her I wasn’t leaving, but that they should. In the commotion we had separated from our friends, but I found them a few minutes later and we all decided to stay. If anything, the tear gas made us angry.
For the next couple hours the riot police continued to throw tear gas at us at regular intervals. There was no violence at all from our side, just angry boos and chants. We would retreat on adjoining boulevards when they threw tear gas, wash whatever substance they were using off our face, catch our breath, only to return as soon as we could chanting ‘we’re not leaving’. The gas they used was causing a lot of people to have respiratory problems, and as it got later into the night the gasing got heavier and I started seeing people being taken to ambulances, some of them having to be carried.
Just before 11pm my friends decided they were leaving (they were driving back to Brasov that night) and I told them to take a back route to their car as I thought it would be too dangerous to go into the main square (we were at the entrance on Calea Victoriei at the time). Minutes after they left riot police started firing non-stop, for minutes. People ran down Calea Victoriei, followed by riot police, who were literally beating anyone in their path. Injured people started pouring into the ambulances parked on Calea Victoriei and Sevastopol. They threw tear gas right next to the ambulances. Imagine this: people being treated for gas inhalation in the ambulances were being gassed again. Doctors and nurses were being gassed. The violence was indiscriminate and unbelievable. My brother (who was even more involved in the protests than I was) was beaten by riot police when he stopped to help an injured person lying on the ground. The police literally stepped on that injured person.
It’s obvious to me (and I’m sure to any reasonable person) that the violence was well planned in advance. The scenario is simple and it has been used before (June 1990 jumps to mind): people are sent into the crowd to attack riot police and that gives them an excuse to attack everyone. I have no doubt that the events of last Friday will be remembered in history as the „mineriada” of our generation. What I don’t know is what will happen next. I am cautiously optimistic that this will have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. I do worry though about what will happen if it won’t be.