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"United We Save All of Romania" – November 4 to Eleventh Sunday in Bucharest

November 4: The week started with what seemed to be a largely failed event, people being encouraged to take part in a blood drive and, as a recommendation, donate the food coupons received to those who are on the front lines of these battles, such as the villagers from Pungesti. However, the information provided directed people to a place where only students could donate, since that was the day’s special event, even though a general blood drive took place those days as well. The explanation given was that the place where anyone can donate doesn’t have the capacity to handle such campaigns and no available mobile team could be found for us to organize our own, so the decision was made to join the one the students had already announced in some sort of organized manner while those who weren’t students were simply advised to go on their own and donate normally. Understandably, that led to confusion and, according to some reports, even to people being turned away for insisting to go in only as a group, but a report that seems somewhat more official says that, while only five people wearing Rosia Montana T-shirts showed up, more than 80 donated that day when normally the number doesn’t exceed 50 on the first day of such a campaign, so it probably at least encouraged more people to donate blood, if not necessarily in connection with this movement.

November 5: I’m not sure this deserves mentioning here, since we’re talking of the Million Mask March, those who try to keep this movement together weren’t exactly willing to associate themselves with something that can be taken as a celebration of a terrorist act and, based on the few reports I saw, there didn’t seem to be any direct connection visible in the street. Still, there were some requests to take part and it would appear that a few regular protesters were among the handful of people who did gather then, apparently in two different places since that apparently wasn’t clear either, so I’ll just put this here and then move on.

November 6: Maybe 40 people gathered in front of the Senate from 8:30 AM, to support an anti-fracking law that was being voted on that morning. It was clear that it’ll be rejected and it was, receiving only eight votes in favor, but the protest was largely symbolic and meant to show the members of the Parliament that we are watching. Of course, the gendarmes were watching as well and they behaved in the manner that is now once again becoming the rule when it comes to these small protests, carding those present and announcing them that they will probably receive fines for their action. In the end, before the protesters cleared away, a basket of apples was taken inside and left as a gift, along with a short letter to the senators. The apples had stickers on them saying: “Does not contain the over 500 cancer-causing and radioactive substances used in fracking… Yet.”

November 7: In response to some backroom arrangements that took place the night before and gave the Special Commission formed to supposedly investigate the Rosia Montana matter an excuse to delay completing the report for one more day and the final vote for Monday, a protest was announced across the road from the Chamber of Deputies entrance, starting at 6 PM. Shortly after that time, the gendarmes arrived and told us to leave, which led to us first walking back to the park entrance, then to some continuing to walk after most had returned to the gathering place, but eventually almost all of us gathered again in one place for a while, only some of the cyclists still riding around. Granted that we didn’t all stay there that long, some of us also crossing the road to stand on either side of the gate, but that was after the gendarmes had proceeded to card us, many, myself included, going through it twice, once on either side of the road.
We were likely just shy of 200 at the peak, but we didn’t block the road or the access to the Parliament building and in fact there was less actual protesting and far more debating, be it with individual gendarmes, with the guards at the gate or with a major who was at the scene. Admittedly, a few of the gendarmes were agreeing with us, encouraging us to keep going or even saying they’re doing what they can to change things as well, but many were acting like they were merely following orders, funnily enough some looking down and mumbling or even simply running away when a few activists started reading them the laws allowing us to be there. On the other hand, the major tried at some length to explain why they’re right and we’re wrong, telling us that, according to their interpretation, the law only allows an unannounced protest inside the Parliament building or in the area between the building and the wall that surrounds it, yet saying it’s not his duty to facilitate our access when we asked to be allowed inside in that case and the guards refused.
As people started to slowly leave after 8 PM, a gendarme apparently said that their intervention was justified by the “innumerable” people who called the emergency number to complain of us blocking the sidewalk, so a few known activists, followed by a few other protesters as well, called 112 as well to complain of the gendarmes, who had actually been the ones blocking access all along, the few pedestrians passing through the area being able to get around or through our group quite fine when they weren’t forming a line on either side. These calls more or less marked the end of the protest, since not many were left by the time they ended and eventually, at 8:35 PM, I left as well, though I spent a few more minutes listening to a few of those who had been in this situation plenty of times after other protests sharing some of their experiences about contesting fines to a small group that had gathered in front of the metro entrance.

November 9: I’m not aware of anything having taken place on Friday and, at the time, I wasn’t aware of anything being planned for Saturday either, but I found out later that some 20 people gathered from 3:30 PM in front of the Greek embassy, answering the call for international solidarity with Chalkidiki, where people are also fighting against a planned gold mine. Admittedly, after seeing that report I remembered that the event was mentioned around the start of the week, but since the movement’s “official” page and the few activists I follow didn’t post anything to remind people of it after that, it simply slipped my mind and I clearly wasn’t the only one in that situation. It must also be noted that a roughly equal number of gendarmes, including no less than three negotiators, surrounded the protesters, far more were waiting in and around a couple of vans parked nearby and, of course, those who went were once again carded and will probably be fined for their action.

Eleventh Sunday: You might have noticed that I didn’t write “march” anymore, and that’s because the plans for this eleventh Sunday didn’t include one. That’s not to say none of this movement’s regulars took part in any marches in Bucharest that day, but those who did were either monarchists who took part in the one in support of returning to monarchy that started at 2 PM or a few rather restless protesters who joined the group from Pungesti when they walked past us on their way to a television station, returning after the show some of them had been invited to was over.
The event description asked people to be at the statues at 4 PM, bring musical instruments, art supplies or anything else they believe will help them protest in a creative way and get ready for an evening of workshops, speeches, music, videos and other such activities. It also said that everyone should come early, and I heard of at least one person who took that literally and was already there at 3 PM, but when I also arrived, almost exactly at 4 PM, I barely found a handful of rather concerned people. A minor reason for that concern was the other scheduled event, a few protesters having announced that they’ll gather around the fountain from 5 PM and do something else, but the main one was a message Claudiu had apparently posted around 2:30 PM, stating that the legionnaires had an approved protest in that same place, also on the Rosia Montana matter, between 5 PM and 7 PM, which meant that they had the right to ask the gendarmes to clear us away. Perhaps worse, it also meant that we’ll have quite an image problem whether we’ll stay there or not, since their visible presence in the spot where everyone knew our event was going to take place will offer a perfect excuse for those who had been throwing shit at us all along to escalate their rhetoric even further.
Some time passed before some of the known activists finally arrived and talked to the Gendarmerie’s negotiators, who said they already discussed the matter with the legionnaires and it was agreed that we can all stay there. After that, a “wall” of bicycles was formed to separate the two sides and preparations for the evening’s events could finally start, the fact that we’ll end up being behind the handful of legionnaires, who’ll therefore be the first thing anyone will see from the street, being shrugged off as unfortunate but unavoidable. Other unfortunate facts were that we were already running very late and that, according to a very stressed Alina, some equipment had apparently vanished, but in the end everything was somehow sorted out and we had a banner workshop, an area with information and offers for those wishing to visit Rosia Montana, a small art exhibition, pictures from disasters caused by cyanide mining in the past, an area where information about fracking was shown, a children’s corner, at least two groups singing and playing instruments somewhere in the square, and an improvised stage for the speakers and singers, which included a screen for the various videos played over the course of the evening. A lawyer was also said to arrive around 7 PM to offer advice about dealing with gendarmes and with the fines we’ll start to receive, but unfortunately I haven’t heard anything else about this after that initial announcement, so at this point I’m assuming that it didn’t actually happen.
The events on the stage finally started at 6:45 PM, Marius Vintila being the evening’s host and first speaker. Since this post is largely aimed at people from abroad who may be interested in the details of these protests, I doubt it’ll make that much sense to list the other speakers and musicians or the videos that were shown, but I have to mention the moment when a speaker who I believe was Willy Schuster accused Claudiu and Alex of opposing associating the movement against fracking with the one for Rosia Montana, generating some shocked and in a few cases perhaps even somewhat angry reactions, the matter eventually being sorted out after Paul Iurea said at the end of his speech that it was a mere misunderstanding and called the three of them on stage to confirm this.
Some time before that unfortunate moment, around 7:20 PM, perhaps up to 100 people arrived from Pungesti and walked past us, marching towards Nasul TV on Victoriei Way. At that point, many thought we were starting a march after all and meant to join them, a few actually doing so despite the fact that Marius Vintila shouted that we’re not going anywhere that evening. I unfortunately didn’t mark the time when they returned and can’t see it mentioned in any of the news articles I could find, so I can only very roughly estimate that it was somewhere around 8:30 PM, but I can certainly tell you that they were very warmly welcomed and became the focus for a while, a few of them obviously also speaking.
Eventually, a 23-minute film about the protests that took place during this year’s FanFest was shown, and during it people started leaving, the evening clearly approaching the end when I even saw Marius Vintila say goodbye to some of the known activists. That left Vlad to set all the remaining videos aside for another time and make the closing speech, during which he invited a few others to say a few words as well, before calling an end to the day’s events at 9:50 PM, nearly everyone leaving within minutes. On top of a few stragglers like me, the exceptions were obviously the few who had to stay behind to gather the equipment and the percussion group, plus those from Pungesti, who gathered somewhere behind the improvised stage for some more chants, a couple of short speeches and a prayer before making their way at 10:10 PM to the bus that arrived to take them back.
As far as numbers go, I was in the crowd and therefore in a poor position to estimate, my camera seeing better than me when I raised it above my head for a few crowd shots, but at the time I was guessing between 1500 and 2000 at the peak and I heard others give similar numbers, both there and on-line, after it was all over. The mainstream media, on the other hand, seemed to agree that we were only 500, a single television station that I know of going as far as saying “nearly 1000”, and over the next few days I started seeing some protesters lower their estimates as well, though generally remaining at at least 1000. That said, it still seems to me that we were well over 1000, so I’ll simply point you to a panoramic image and one or two regular crowd shots taken by a good photographer, remind you that not everyone can be seen in them and let you decide for yourself.
You definitely have to appreciate the effort a small team of volunteers put into organizing this event and it’d have definitely been a nice change of pace if it’d have happened on any other day, but I must say I’m not in the least happy with the decision to schedule it on a Sunday and break the rhythm set by the previous ten, especially when the Special Commission was going to vote on its report the very next day. However, despite all that, and also despite the low turnout, it did turn out quite well in the end, there were absolutely no incidents that I know of and it might have even attracted a few more people to our cause, so I have to say that the misgivings bordering on anger that I had when I arrived there turned into neutral or even slightly positive feelings by the time it was all over. As such, I continue to have no real reason to distrust those who try to keep this movement together, which also implies that I have no significant concerns regarding any direction they may perhaps be trying to steer it into.


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