Romanians Brace For Repeat of Iconic Protest

That day, in Bucharest's Victory Square, after a group of demonstrators tried to storm the government building, riot police dispersed the crowd with water cannons and tear gas. Many ordinary protesters were beaten by policemen using batons. The fracas left more than 400 needing medical attention. Over 800 demonstrators and some 160 policemen have since opened criminal cases over the clashes, and the resulting general outcry has turned 10 August into a new political landmark in the Romanian political calendar.

Romanian riot policemen pass in front of a burning barricade during an expatriates protest against the government at the government headquarters in Bucarest, Romania, 10 August 2018. Archive photo: EPA-EFE/BOGDAN CRISTEL

"The problem was not necessarily the police intervention itself, because some of the demonstrators were in fact quite recalcitrant, but the fact that they [the police in their response] tarred everyone with the same brush," political analyst Radu Delicote told BIRN.

Delicote highlights the significance of the diaspora in the protest, noting that emigrés - who have historically played a key role in steering Romania towards higher democratic standards - played a crucial role this time, too. "It sent a powerful warning to those in power," the analyst said.

The events of 10 August 2018 have left a strong and enduring impression on Romanian society, according to Delicote, noting the outrage over the official response - but also the sense of confidence of another mass mobilization that will unite the country with the diaspora - one of the factors behind the historic results of the May 26 European elections.

With a turnout of 49 per cent, a record for a European election in Romania, a remarkably emboldened electorate...

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