More than 1000 protesters clashed with police, who used tear gas to disperse them after a main road was blocked in frustration against public wage cuts, slashed benefits, higher taxes and widespread corruption. Romania. 15th January 2012
The protests, in their third day, are the most serious since President Traian Basescu came to power in 2004. Although they were sparked by the forced resignation of the founder of Romania's Mobile Emergency Service for Resuscitation and Extrication (SMURD), dr. Raed Arafat, they are the result of frustration against public wage cuts, slashed benefits, higher taxes and widespread corruption.
During the day, hundreds of people of all ages rallied around the already-secured Piata Universitatii, protesting noisily a day after demonstrators clashed with police there. They were shouting slogans against Basescu, like “Down with the dictator!”, and holding caricatures of the Minister of Tourism, Elena Udrea, a close aide of Basescu. Until 5pm there weren’t any signals of a soon-to-emerge violence. More than 3000 protested in cities outside Bucharest, police said.
After nightfall, the situation quickly escalated when a group of protesters clashed with around 50 gendarmes just a few hundred meters from Piata Univeristatii, on one of the most important roads in Bucharest’s city center. The road connecting Piata Universitatii to Piata Unirii soon became a battleground littered with burning trash bins, broken bottles, stones and empty cans from all the tear gas and flares shot. In the meantime, fights broke out in Piata Universitatii. Although the situation didn't cool off at all, the police decided to restore traffic in the area, in an effort to offer the impression that the protest is getting under control.
The gendarms pushed the violent protesters towards Piata Unirii, where the latter lit an outdoor ad on fire and continued throwing stones at the police. Roumors say one reporter was beaten up by some of the protesters, but it’s still unconfirmed at this moment. The police force responded with tear gas again, and dispersed the crowd.
Raed Arafat (born May 24, 1964) is a Syrian-born Romanian intensive care physician of Palestinian origin. An anesthesiologist, he is the founder of Mobile Emergency Service for Resuscitation and Extrication (SMURD).
Dr. Arafat was appointed as Subsecretary of State for Health in August 2009. He resigned from this position on the 10th of January, following his public complaints regarding the new provisions relating to emergency medicine from the draft law on health and as a result of the criticism leveled at him by President Traian Basescu.