Published: Sat, August 11, 2018
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Romanians protest govt corruption for a 2nd straight day

Romanians protest govt corruption for a 2nd straight day

Romanian police on Saturday defended their use of force after an anti-government protest turned violent leaving 455 people, including three dozen riot police, needing medical treatment.

Police had used water cannon and tear gas to disperse the protesters as tens of thousands rallied to call on the leftwing government to resign.

The anti-government protest in Bucharest Friday drew tens of thousands Romanians from overseas and local residents who demanded the government resign over moves to change laws that critics say would make it harder to prosecute corruption.

Local media said up to 80,000 people had taken to the streets, among them many Romanian expatriates who returned home to show their anger at the graft in one of the EU's most corruption-plagued member states. Police placed traffic restrictions in the area.

Some protesters attempted to force their way through security lines guarding the government building and others threw bottles and rocks at riot police, according to news agency Reuters.

Romania's center-right President Klaus Iohannis, a critic of the government, said he "strongly condemned the brutal intervention of the police, which was disproportionate to the attitude of most demonstrators" but added that "any form of violence is unacceptable".

The protesters demand the resignation of the government, objecting to the perceived efforts to weaken the judiciary by the governing Social Democrats (PSD), as well as low wages and entrenched corruption in the country.

More than 400 people were injured during an anti-government rally in Romania's capital, police say.

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Another police spokesman, Georgian Enache, said "the legitimate state violence", was justified because protesters had been warned several times to leave the square.

Some people sustained head and other injuries, while others were overcome by tear gas, authorities said.

Interior Minister Carmen Dan said the riot police hadn't "intervened against peaceful protesters, but against risky hooligans who attacked the state's authority".

Police said they had acted in a proportionate way, responding to the violent behaviour of hooligans in the crowd.

Austria's public broadcaster ORF said Saturday a cameraman covering the protest for the post was hit by police with truncheons, while the presenter with him was shoved up against a wall.

Isabela Conduruta, a 45-year-old Romanian who's worked as a cleaner for 12 years in Germany, explained why she joined Saturday's protest.

"We want to see modern roads and schools and above all to not have to pay bribes to the left and right", she told AFP.

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