Diaspora la protestele de pe 10 august: Ioana Banach (31 de ani, Bruxelles)

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: Ioana Banach
For nearly two years, I have been following from Brussels, where I live and work, the worrisome developments on the Romanian political scene. Since it came to power at the end of 2016 the ruling Social Democrat party has been manoeuvring judiciary institutions and striving to change the country’s anti-corruption laws to serve its leaders. The party’s leader, Liviu Dragnea, has been unable to serve as prime minister due to a vote-rigging conviction (he received a two-year suspended sentence, but the decision was not final).

August 2018: from peace to riots
It all started with a call for action launched on social media by various citizens and Romanian associations abroad. I decided to travel, same as other tens of thousands of Romanians from all over the world, back to my home country to protest against a Government that disregards the rule of law, threatens the independence of the judiciary power, and shapes laws to suit those in power, rather than the Romanian people.
In the evening of 10 August, together with members of my family, who have already been participating in anti-government protests in our hometown, I went to Bucharest. Our hope was one: to request that the government resigns and call for elections.
The hope of a peaceful protest
My sister and her husband arrived first at Victoria Square, in front of the Government building, around 7 PM. They sent us messages saying that we should not advance too much in the protesting crowd, as the gendarmerie had just attacked protesters with tear gas. Some protesters had forced the fence separating them from the yard of the Government building.
When I arrived one hour later, around 100.000 people were chanting peacefully, and I quickly joined them. Some creative “entrepreneurs” were selling Romanian flags and whistles on the street. Parents were carrying their children, husbands holding the hands of their wives, lovers and friends were marching towards the Government square. Some were making music, others were walking, laughing, chatting and chanting.
From time to time, we could hear what sounded like oversized firecrackers, followed by the booing of the crowd and the chanting of “we’re not leaving”. We decided to join the massive EU flag held in place by hundreds of protesters. We were told by friends that this place had not been attacked yet.
Shortly after 11h PM: The end of democracy
The atmosphere was peaceful, and the protesters were chanting “Thieves! Thieves!” when, all of a sudden, the gendarmerie started attacking with tear gas, firecrackers and water cannons. Not anticipating the scale of the attack, a protester with a megaphone was telling the crowd to lay low (to protect themselves from tear gas), and people were listening. A few seconds later, it became clear that we all had to stand up and run, as the masses of scared and hurt people were starting to panic, while the attack continued.
With my family, we tried staying together, but were soon separated in the frenzy. I managed to squeeze my brother’s hand and we ran not knowing where we were going, barely being able to see or breathe. We could hear people shouting, some were throwing up, some on the ground. We saw some carrying those who had fainted.
After a while, we stopped. The air was clear, and we could catch our breath for a few seconds of perceived safety in a pitch-dark park in the middle of Bucharest. We started chanting again: “The gendarmerie attacks Romania!”.
This didn’t last – more people started running towards us, and we could hear shots (probably from tear gas attacks). The gendarmerie was following the dispersing crowds on the streets of Bucharest. Tens of adjacent streets became the stage for barbaric aggression scenes, in which state forces were attacking peaceful protesters. We hid in a block of flats and were given water by the enraged neighbours living there.
The aftermath
Official reports recorded 450 injured, but I dare say more: they hurt all of us, the over 100.000 people who participated in the protest; they hurt the citizens who were witnessing the atrocities from their homes and got gassed as the gendarmerie passed their streets. But most of all, they hurt all Romanian citizens, by undermining our democracy.
The Romanian President condemned the attack, same as several foreign media, and European governments (an Austrian news crew was attacked, which prompted the Austrian government to ask for explanations). The Romanian Military Prosecutor started an investigation an is receiving complaints from citizens and NGOs.
However, we are 4 days later, and no resignation: the Minister of the Interior, the Prefect of Bucharest and Gendarmerie leadership are all saying that the attack was justified because of some groups of “instigators” in the crowd.
What now?
I am, same as my family, my friends and other Romanian citizens, utterly enraged. We joined a peaceful protest against a government that disrespects the rule of law, and we have been physically attacked by those who are supposed to protect us.
I have no trust or hope that this government will either resign or change. So what now? We, the Romanian people, have no choice but keep on carrying our daily battles, some in Romania, some from abroad. We will keep on protesting and asking for justice.
But we need to ensure this party is eliminated from power as soon as possible, and never comes to power again. European elections are coming up in May 2019, and Romanian general elections will take place in autumn 2019. Let’s ensure we are out there to vote!
We also need to ensure this party is stigmatised at European level and loses the support of social-democrats in Europe. Finally, we need to call on PSD members to detach themselves from a toxic party. They ought to see that their party has been hijacked by a handful of criminals who have destroyed the last remainders of social democrat ideology in Romania.

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