Romanians protest government corruption for 2nd straight day

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

455 people were injured Friday in protest calling on left-wing government to resign

Tens of thousands of people gathered outside the Romanian government headquarters in Bucharest Friday, calling for the leftist government to resign over corruption allegations. ( Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea via Reuters)

Tens of thousands of Romanians held another anti-government protest Saturday a day after a previous demonstration turned violent, leaving 455 people in need of medical treatment.

Protesters carrying Romanian, European Union and other flags rallied Saturday outside government offices in Bucharest, the capital — the same place where the protest Friday had degenerated into violence.

"Have no fear! Romanians will rise up!" and "You thieves!" they yelled. Protesters blew plastic horns called vuvuzelas and projected the words "Down with the government" on the government offices.
Protesters gathered in major cities across the country. Here police hold a protester outside government headquarters in the capital Bucharest. (Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea via Reuters)

Critics say Romania has lost ground in fighting corruption since the ruling Social Democratic Party assumed power in 2016. They are urging the government to resign and call a new election.

Sorin Radu, who works in IT, said he was protesting "because we have a government where many are corrupt.

The people who rule have no connection with ordinary people. I'm here to try and change something.- Sorin Radu, IT worker and protest attendee

"The people who rule have no connection with ordinary people. I'm here to try and change something," he said.

"We want to return to Romania, but there's too much corruption and the health care is dismal," said Isabela Conduruta, a 45-year-old who's worked as a cleaner for 12 years in Germany.

People shine the lights of their mobile phones during during the second day of protests Saturday. (Vadim Ghirda/Associated Press)

70 hospitalized

Earlier Saturday, Romanian riot police defended their use of force at Friday night protest in which 70 people, including 11 riot police, had to be taken to the hospital. Dozens of others were treated at the scene.

Riot police spokesman Marius Militaru said police are pursuing charges against eight people for the violence.

Some protesters threw water bottles at riot police. (Bogdan Cristel/EPA-EFE)

Militaru said officers were ordered by Bucharest officials to evacuate Victory Square late Friday after an hours-long protest in front of government offices that drew tens of thousands demanding the government's resignation.

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

Riot police fired tear gas and water cannons to quell protesters. Some people lobbed rocks, bottles and smoke bombs at riot police.

Protesters scuffle with police during Friday's demonstration in Bucharest. (Inquam Photos/Liviu Florin Albei via Reuters)

3 journalists say they were hurt by police 

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

But President Klaus Iohannis, a critic of the left-wing government, condemned "the brutal intervention of the riot police."

Three journalists also said they were roughed up by police.

Austrian public broadcaster ORF said Saturday that a cameraman covering the protest was hit by police with truncheons and the TV presenter with him was shoved up against a wall.

A journalist filming the rally for Romania's Hotnews online website said he was kicked and shoved by riot police.