What has been actually happening in Romania over the last week? International media such as the BBC, The Guardian, The New York Times and Le Monde report on big scale protests against the Romanian Government, unprecedented since the 1989 upraising against former dictator Ceausescu. (photo by Dan Mihai Balanescu)
As a Romanian myself, I regularly check social media for posts about the protests, the government’s response and people’s expectations. Let me show you some of the Facebook activity that has taken place. Here are some of the original posts, and their English translation.
- Dan Mihai Balanescu (freelance photographer, Bucharest) shared this photo on Facebook on Sunday, February 5. It rapidly became one of the most successful images of the event, and BuzzFeed published it the next day as emblematic of the Romanian protests.
The image capture reads “February 5th, a historical date” and it shows what is estimated to be over a quarter of a million people gathered in Victory Square, Bucharest, in front of the Government building.
Across the whole of Romania, an estimated half a million people protested that evening. This is equivalent to a medium sized county in Romania, population wise.
- Unknown source for this Facebook post, shared by many, talks about stories posted over the week by protesters.
On Thursday, a restaurant offers a hot pizza slice to protesters for the #altăintrebare password. In the square people bring and share pretzels, coffee, flowers, warm clothes, flags, materials for placards to be made on the spot. Infant schools work overtime so that parents who want to participate in the protests can leave their children there longer. Taxi drivers take people over to the square and back without charging a penny. The riot police on duty receive flowers. People who celebrate their birthdays get sung “happy birthday” by everybody around them. The owner of a Bucharest hostel offers free accommodation to protesters. A dentist offers free dental treatment to people who can show him photos of themselves asking for the repeal of the emergency ordinance. A famous band reschedule their weekend concerts saying “these days, our place is in the square, not in clubs”. Before going home, people collect the rubbish in plastic bags they brought along. Companies allow employees to leave early so they can take part, nobody hides any longer for fear of repercussions, everybody posts publicly on Facebook. Romanian expats pay to fly over this weekend, so that they can shout their discontent back in their home country at least for one day. The expats who cannot come over donate money so their friends can buy sandwiches for the protesters in the square. It is still difficult, but this bubble of ours is becoming more and more wonderful. And bigger! #8zile #neamunit (#8days #unitedpeople)
- Moving collages have been posted on social media and have meanwhile become new “internet folklore” for Romanians. Some of them are humorous, some of them emotional.
1989 revolution photo placard reads: “Our children will be free”.
2017 photo placard reads: “The children of the revolution are here”.
- Radu Vancu (poet and lecturer at Lucian Blaga University in Sibiu) actively involves in updating on both facts and background information from the protest movement in his city.
45,000 out of 600,000.
The truth and the beauty of these masses will make us free.
Note: Sibiu county, Romania, is estimated to have a population of about 600,000.
Yesterday, when we were 30,000 people, only one lane of Mihai Viteazul boulevard was being used.
Today, we are marching shoulder to shoulder on both lanes.
There are, therefor, over 40,000, maybe 50,000 people on the road.
All in a small city with a population of 150,000.
Ah, my gigantic small city, Sibiu.
Radu also agreed to answer a few questions to clarify what exactly stirred such a massive reaction with the main cities population across the country. He first explains how the Government recent act triggered the protests:
These protests originate in the outrageous decision of the Grindeanu cabinet to pass an emergency ordinance which practically decriminalised corruption. In order to make things even more outrageous, this ordinance was passed during night time, in a shameful atmosphere of secrecy and conspiracy. While finding out about the passing of the ordinance, Romanians immediately took to the streets.
Day after day, the protests grew in momentum and number; in the 4th day, 400.000 people were in the streets of Romania; in the 5th – 500.000, and in the 6th – 600.000. It is thus the most massive and enduring protest movement Romania has seen in its whole modern history.
He also certifies for the positive attitude and hopes of a nation reaching maturity, that many seem to share today in Romania:
After all, 2017 may prove to be the year when – after almost a century from its formation in 1918 – Romania has definitively entered modernity. The ample civic and ethic reaction during this last week made it look like a nation composed of modern citizens, attached to abstract principles which make them react in most concrete manners. The civility of the protests, the immense and witty humour of the slogans, the political maturity to understand and follow the most suitable strategy in order to achieve the most effective results – all these are specific to nations with a consistently internalised political tradition.
Romania has just started looking like such a nation. If a nation is a community of feeling, as Max Weber writes, then Romania – such as it looks these last days – definitely is one.
- Mugur Grosu ( writer and journalist, Bucharest) regularly writes against claims by the Government that protesters are either manipulated or illegitimate.
500,000 people take the streets throughout the whole country and they say this is illegitimate. How many where there during the revolution, and what made the revolt then suddenly “legal”, only for it to be stolen and passed on as an asset from one leader to the other, to the ones who lead us today? Ceausescu tried to organise in Bucharest a counter-meeting to the Timisoara revolt and what resulted of that was tragic. I am hoping that Dragnea (note: governing Social Democrat Party – PSD – leader) does not come up with such ideas. It started exactly the same: throwing dust at the crowds and threats about foreign secret services involvement, completely cut out of the simple day to day reality, until he was betrayed and executed by his own (…)
The counter-meeting gathered about 150 to 200 people, according to Romanian mainstream media channel. Some of the people present shouted for former president Basescu to resign (currently not in any official position), according to Facebook sources.
To end this first part on Romanian protests, watch the Skype interview I made with Anna Copacel Berza, photographer and MA student in Anthropology. She participated every day, except one, and hopes this time the corruption in Romanian politics has been given a proper shock. Her cat agrees too (by the end of the video).
I publish this raw, unedited, to keep the freshness of Anna’s thoughts and feedback as it was given.
This piece was also published on Birmingham Eastside at: http://birminghameastside.com/2017/02/08/romania-2017-thousands-protest-against-government/.