It’s rather odd to start this update with an ending, but an announcement posted that very morning stated that the anti-fracking “resistance camp” maintained by the series of hunger strikers in front of the Bucharest National Theater since December 21 will close on March 4, people being asked to gather there to mark the event at 7 PM, before once again commemorating the child who was found dead in Aricestii Rahtivani, after inhaling gas from a conventional oil well owned by OMV Petrom and not protected by as much as a fence despite being very close to houses, an hour later.
You may recall that I found this hunger strike idea pointless at best, and likely detrimental, not to mention that it rather devalued the entire concept after dozens of people began taking turns being on strike, most of them for a single day. You may also recall that, for that reason, I largely ignored the hunger strikers all this time, but said several times that I will attend an event meant to mark the closure of the “camp”, if only as a way to express my relief and the hope that it will be replaced by actions that will actually have a point. Unfortunately, I only noticed the announcement during the afternoon and it caught me at a time when it would have been difficult to simply change clothes and walk out the door on such short notice, so all I know comes from a very brief report I read, which mentioned that about 25 people attended and little else.
Moving on to an entirely different topic, the purpose of the next day’s event was to show solidarity with Ukraine and protest against Russia’s actions. For this reason, people were asked to gather in front of the Ukrainian embassy at 6:30 PM, and from there we marched to the nearby Russian embassy. Since this time I did attend, and took a few pictures as well, I can say the march started too early, as our numbers were likely to have grown further if we’d have waited a while longer, but the person who posted the call didn’t have experience in such matters and none of the most notable activists were there either, so there was nobody to keep the more restless ones in check.
As such, about 60 of us left at 6:55 PM, arrived in the little square across the road from the entrance to the Russian embassy, since we weren’t allowed to gather right in front of it, some ten minutes later, and more or less sat around for about 15 minutes, until the person who can be said to have organized the event suddenly and unexpectedly announced that it was over. This surprised nearly everyone else so much that almost another ten minutes passed before most actually decided to leave, some spending that time wondering whether there was anything else we could do that evening so it won’t be wasted in such a manner.
A message posted the next day mentioned another protest taking place in front of the Russian embassy on March 7, between 2 PM and 4 PM. This protest was organized by an NGO and apparently properly authorized, but that message was the only one I saw about it, so I have absolutely no idea what actually happened. The same can be said about the protests organized here by the Tatar community, in support of the Crimean Tatars. More notable such protests took place in Constanta, where the number of Tatars is more significant, but I also saw announcements mentioning events in Bucharest, also in front of the Russian embassy, on March 14, from 5 PM, and March 16, from 1 PM.
Returning to March 7, a protest that was supported, even if obviously not attended, by the known activists and groups took place inside the National Library of Romania, due to the fact that the Ministry of Culture plans to take over a third of the space, including 65% of the public areas. All employees began wearing white armbands and staged something of a flash mob at noon in the Atrium, where they gathered to read in silence for ten minutes.
March 8 can be said to have started with a protest to save a small park where a gas station is to be built, one activist mentioning that those who live in the area are asking supporters to join them there at 2 PM, but I don’t know what actually happened and the day’s main event was definitely the protest against the fact that, after the law stating that stray dogs captured and not adopted within 14 days are to be killed was passed some time ago, the killings actually started here. Similar events took place in dozens of cities around the world, apparently most of them in Germany, and in Bucharest people were asked to gather in Victoriei Square from 4 PM, though some were expected to be there at 3 PM because that seems to have been the time that was initially announced, before those who were able to come earlier were asked to gather at University Square at that time instead, in order to march to Victoriei Square together.
If it’d have been a protest strictly against killing, I definitely would have attended, but instead I had to keep well away from it for the same reason I avoided all other similar events that were organized here since the talks about this law began, and by this I’m referring to the fact that, as it is pretty much anywhere in the world, the vast majority of those who are part of this movement strongly promote spaying and neutering, most supporting the laws that make it mandatory as well. I see no reason why that makes them in any way better than those who promote killing and oppose that practice just as vehemently as I oppose declawing, devocalizing, ear cropping or tail docking, and for the exact same reasons, so I’ll have nothing whatsoever to do with that crowd. Surgical sterilization is one thing and I’d recommend it for most pets as well as for most humans, but only as long as the same methods will be used, without removing functional body parts when this is not absolutely required for medical reasons.
Still, what I know is that perhaps around 1000 people, according to one estimate I saw, gathered in the square itself and protested for a few hours, before some marched back to University Square and continued the protest there for a while longer. I also know that a group staged a counter-protest, one car and a few tricycles circling the area while pulling large signs with messages describing the threat of stray dogs, supporting this law that led to the killings and asking people to notify the authorities about any dogs that need to be captured, while a similar message “greeted” the protesters from a large billboard. A small group also spread fliers, which were more focused on the child whose death started this whole mess and included a graphic picture of his body. Obviously, there was no mention of the fact that he was killed by dogs that were, at least on paper, adopted, after his grandmother had left him and his older brother out of sight and they wandered onto a private property that the dogs seemed to be guarding, which property wasn’t properly surrounded by a fence.
Moving on to the following week, while an open letter regarding Rosia Montana was sent to the new Minister of Environment on March 10, the first event that actually took place in Bucharest, as far as I’m aware, was a small authorized protest in front of the Ministry of Economy, on March 13, starting at 3 PM. A handful of people, maybe around 20, gathered there due to the fact that the new Minister Delegate for Energy is a former director of OMV Petrom, who resigned from his position within the company just before being appointed in this new position, and a message was also read.
As for March 16, while barely worth mentioning in terms of visibility or impact, the day’s most notable event from the point of view of this movement was probably the protest supposed to take place in front of the British embassy, starting at 3 PM. I’m saying it was supposed to take place there because the amount of security made that impossible, and the low number of people who attended made the whole thing rather embarrassing for all concerned. When you mean to show solidarity with the Community Fracking Blockade in Barton Moss and protest against the brutal methods employed by police against those people, yet only have 13 people show up, 15 if you also count the one who only arrived as we were getting ready to leave and the one who can be said to be more of an independent reporter firmly on the protesters’ side than an actual protester, it may be better to get back to the drawing board.
Still, somebody certainly thought we were dangerous, because the road in front of the embassy was blocked, about 20 gendarmes were visibly patrolling the area, many others were waiting in four or five vans and the actual entrance was guarded by a few people in uniforms identifying them as members of an antiterrorist unit, which a rather nervous negotiator informed us were fully armed, right before mentioning that intelligence agents were around as well. In addition, a woman appeared as soon as we started gathering right outside the area that was closed off and never shut up, accusing us of everything and its opposite, seeming to have a retort for everything, talking in Romanian, Russian, English and French, and shouting even more loudly when the manifesto was being read. We were later told she used to be an university professor but now has mental problems and can’t be reasoned with, which is of course possible, but under the circumstances many of us were wondering whether she wasn’t in fact an extremely skilled agent tasked with sabotaging our protest.
Under these circumstances, after the few who tended to react more vehemently to that woman’s behavior managed to calm down as well, we amused ourselves because of it and tried to make the best of the situation. Since we were not allowed to even walk past the embassy, on the opposite sidewalk, while displaying any signs or banners, we had to stay where we were and hold them while some pictures were taken and the manifesto was read, in both Romanian and English. We were not allowed to use a loudspeaker for that, so Erwin Albu’s loud voice had to suffice, but when Maria called someone who was at Barton Moss and asked her to describe what had happened that restriction was ignored, since there’d have been no other way for all of us to hear what was being said.
As we were getting ready to leave, the negotiator kindly informed us that we were to be carded and to consider ourselves warned, but that we will not be fined. To prevent any later surprises, this was filmed by someone, but I still had a moment of panic when the other gendarmes moved in and I suddenly realized that I didn’t have my card with me. Thankfully, I managed to recall my code and if you tell them that and your name and they match when they verify them, you don’t need to show the card, so there was no problem and we were even allowed to walk past the embassy on our way back to the boulevard. The gendarmes were extremely nervous as we did that, however, particularly when someone remarked that we’re being treated like terrorists and a couple of others started chanting against the British Government and Prime Minister. You could see their relief as soon as we left the area that was closed off, and one even wished us a good day and wanted to shake hands.
From the embassy, nearly everyone walked to Carturesti, where a meeting with Erwin Albu, Willy Schuster and Nicusor Dan was scheduled to start at 5 PM, though it was somewhat delayed because, while the first two had also participated in the protest and were obviously there along with the rest of us, the latter was late. There had apparently been a similar meeting, in a different place, the day before as well, but I have no idea how that turned out, so I can only focus on this one and say that more people trickled in as time passed and a total of 31 attended in the end, if you also count the three of them and the one who was largely there to film the meeting. Many were activists or otherwise involved in Erwin’s effort to gather the required number of signatures to run for a seat in the European Parliament at the upcoming elections, but once he stated how many had been gathered until then, making it obvious that there was no way he could meet the requirement before the deadline, I did find it odd that they seemed unable to accept the otherwise entirely expected failure and start discussing how else any structure formed with this occasion may be used, preferably aiming for goals that the other activists would support as well, such as changing the electoral law.
Worse, although Willy and Nicusor were there as strong backers of Erwin and the latter proved that he was aware of it by saying few words and choosing them carefully, attempting to defuse the situation until it became obvious that it was pointless to even try, Willy took center stage and did so in a particularly harmful manner. The fact that he advertised his organic farm was fine, after all it’s a success story, but listening to him tell his life story and talk about his convictions and beliefs, including religious ones, was at the very least boring, and at least for me increasingly annoying. However, when he moved on to attacking the United We Save and Save Rosia Montana movements for firmly refusing to have anything to do with people who want to run for office under the current electoral laws and cutting ties with him and Erwin as a result, I went from being annoyed to becoming increasingly furious and, as the crowd seemed to be starting to drop the misguided focus on still trying to gather as many signatures as possible before the deadline only to help him in piling on the shit, I took it as my cue to get ready to leave and did so shortly afterwards, at 7 PM, along with several others.
While this was going on, two protests against the way in which Antena 3, which is the most watched news television station, attacked Andrei Plesu were scheduled to take place in University Square, one starting at 5 PM and the other at 6:30 PM, this latter one being political. However, while some regular protesters did attend and the “Romania Is Protesting” page expressed support, the movement’s “official” page and the known activists largely ignored the matter, and a few even expressed opposition. Some days later, an announcement posted and shared explained the stance by reminding people that Andrei Plesu had remained silent regarding the Rosia Montana issue all this time, and when he finally decided to mention it, last year, it was in order to criticize the protesters and the “United We Save” movement. As such, the evening’s other event, namely another viewing of Vlad’s “Ich Bin Dubist (Memories from the Van)” film, which was scheduled to start at 8:30 PM, can be said to have been more notable.
Otherwise, it is spring, so the “traditional” protests organized by unions have already started, while the fact that elections are approaching means that opposition parties are organizing as many as they can as well. These events usually gather thousands of people, at times the numbers even reaching into the low tens of thousands, but they definitely have nothing to do with this movement and will not be mentioned here unless perhaps clear messages of support will be posted by the known activists or groups and I’ll happen to agree as well.