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The First Protest of 2013

After writing the previous post, I noticed that the protest I thought was just supposed to take place in front of the theater and be only against the president, being controlled by USL supporters, was in fact listed as taking place on both sides of the road and be against all the major parties, so against the current government as well. How did I misread both the title and the description the first time, I’m not sure, but knowing that USL supporters have been gathering in front of the theater throughout 2012 to chant against the president surely played a large part of it.
Not that it mattered what it was supposed to be about, since my original assumption was largely correct regarding the result, even though the organizers of the 5 PM protest had every intention of using that location to protest against both sides. An USL event was scheduled nearby from 11 AM, supposedly bringing together “the real protesters” from last year, along with a few politicians from USL, to brag about how they took down the previous government and what rivers of milk and honey will flow under their current leadership, so it was entirely expected to have the people attending that walk over to the theater in significant numbers and fortify their position there afterwards, preventing anyone else from using the location to say anything against USL as well.

Personally, after reading that description again and being assured by Alex that the protest was indeed meant to be against both sides, I tried to get to the theater at 5. Obviously, I ran right into a whole crowd of older people who knew nothing but to call for Basescu’s resignation or impeachment and ask for “the orange mafia” to be put in jail, though I was surprised to also notice a few young ones standing somewhere next to the main group, holding a large banner against fracking, which equated Ponta with Basescu. How come they were allowed to stay there, I can’t say, but they were there until Claudiu came at the fountain to properly start the other protest, at 7:20 or so, when they moved over to that side.
Faced with that, I turned around and went over to the other side of the road, at the fountain, where I found Alex and a few others, already temporarily resigned to “the coup across the road”, as he put it. A few steps away there was also a group of football fans, who had apparently announced their intention to participate after I had left home, so their presence was quite a surprise for me. The fact that they couldn’t exactly be reasoned with wasn’t, however, as they had their own issues to protest about, such as a particular law affecting them, plus cursing the president of our Professional Football League every chance they got. When Alex led a chant against the gendarmerie, they shouted alongside him and those of us who took it up as well, which generally didn’t include me, but otherwise they were largely a separate group, often drowned out our own attempts at chants and at some point they even started throwing firecrackers there, right at people’s feet.

That wasn’t exactly a manageable situation, at least not if we wanted to have a real protest there on the issues it was originally supposed to be about, so at some point it was decided to at least make some use of their obvious desire for “action” and head back to the theater, with them at the lead. Once there, we started chanting usual things like “PDL and USL steal by rotation” or adding “Ponta and Antonescu” to the older people’s “down with Basescu”, which obviously made them quickly react. That led to a couple of short speeches from our side, trying to explain to them that we are, or should be, all on the same side, united against those who take away our freedoms, poison our environment and so on for their own selfish interests, regardless of which side of the current political spectrum they’re on, but that was clearly rejected as well.
At that point, the others who were from the regular young protester crowd generally took their banners and hung back, but I stayed with those who pressed on, partly because I went there to protest against both sides, not to allow one to take over the protests and use them for their own gain, and partly due to feeling safer in the thick of it, surrounded by those who’d know their way around pushing and shoving if it came to that, than exposed among a handful of people scattered a few steps away from the crowd. So we traded chants, shouts and places, as we were looking for visibility and the older crowd was trying to surround and hide us, so the cameras won’t catch the fact that some had something to say against USL just as well.
We climbed to the top of the stairs, they formed a wall in front of us; we went around and gathered in front of them, they quickly made their way between us and the cameras; Alex and a few supporters pushed through to sit right in front of the camera people while others surrounded them to stop anyone else from forming another wall, they surrounded us and started chanting “crappy supporters, Basescu hired you”. That actually seemed to be a prepared chant, which surprised me and I was looking for a proper answer, but of course couldn’t find any right away, the only thing I did on my own being to shout that “red and yellow is still orange” at the next chant about the “orange mafia”, seeing as orange is PDL’s color and the two main parties that make up USL are PSD and PNL, whose colors are red and yellow, respectively.

Eventually, we retreated and regrouped in the underground passage, in front of the metro station. The fans, still aching for “action” and throwing firecrackers, immediately started debating what to do next, but I was reasonably satisfied with what we had done already and there was definitely no reason to still feel safer close to them than away, so I hung back with the other regulars as soon as we got down there and waited, first for their decision, which was to go back and try to block the road, and then for the outcome of that, as I definitely wanted nothing to do with it.
I’m actually still not sure what ended up happening, because it wasn’t long before they returned with another crazy plan, which I believe was trying to go on a march to Unirii Square, which I think Alex was trying to talk them out of. However, by then some of the regulars were starting to head back to the surface, to the fountain, and I followed them, noticing that it was around 7:10 and some had already gathered for the other scheduled protest, which was the one I originally meant to go to.

Once there, we had to wait a while longer for Claudiu and Vlad to arrive, and also for the football fans and Alex to join us again, after he had probably managed to somehow talk them out of all the crazy plans they could come up with, but after that it actually worked out quite well for some 45 minutes. We chanted against all the major parties, for a new political class, against the Rosia Montana mining project, against fracking, for freedom and democracy, for better healthcare and education, and so on. The fans still had their own separate chants if given a chance, but the larger crowd of regulars and Claudiu and Vlad’s style of moving from one chant to another quickly didn’t give them so many opportunities anymore, which led to them often joining in and things turning out surprisingly well, actually. I even heard Vlad say that he honestly didn’t expect so many people to attend and things to go so well.
Eventually, around 8:30, after a few minutes during which it was mostly quiet, somebody called the end of the day’s protest, Claudiu said that he’ll go off to some club, and within moments we all left. Some independent journalists were actually pointing out that they just went away for a few minutes to warm their hands while the protest still seemed to be going strong and by the time they got back there wasn’t a single person left around the fountain.

Now let’s see what will happen next, if anything. I’m not a fan of the methods used by Alex and his more “hardcore” crowd, nor am I keen on how the protests they organize turn out, but I’m very much aware that what they’re doing is necessary under the current circumstances, so I may well try to lend a hand again, if I’ll clearly support the cause, believe that enough people will show up and feel that I’ll be able to manage the situation. On the other hand, while Alex, Brianna and the others from that side can’t stand them, the attitude Claudiu and Vlad have and the methods they use tend to make things run quite smoothly and turn out rather well if they can rely on at least a handful of people who truly want to take part and don’t need to actually fight for their right to protest, plus that our views appear to be much more similar, so I’m even more likely to take part in the next events they’ll announce, as long as they’ll be clear events and not daily protests, as it was last year.


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