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Constitutional Court, Kovesi, Rosia Montana, Halep, Firea – May 30 to June 13 in Bucharest

This will be a quick post, so let me start directly with May 30, when our Constitutional Court decided that our President can’t reject the Minister of Justice’s request to dismiss the Chief Prosecutor of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) the way he did. That was quite unexpected, and certain to anger many activists and protesters, so of course there were immediate calls for a protest from many directions and people started gathering in Victory Square that evening, the event being set to start at 4 PM, though few showed up before 6 PM. However, the expectations that this will end up being another large protest and likely the beginning of another series of massive ones were proven wrong, as only about 2000 people were present at the peak, even though many stayed for quite a while, a report mentioning about 200 left at 11 PM. But those reports are all I have, since I didn’t go, and I just glanced over a couple of them anyway.
Despite the disappointing turnout, the calls for protests continued… Or they continued for one more day, since after only about 500 showed up the next evening they more or less died down. Actually had a look that next evening, but got there around 8:30 PM and left minutes later, seeing that nothing relevant was going to happen. And nothing particularly relevant happened since then as far as this issue is concerned, so I think most are still waiting to see what the President will actually do, since he said he’ll take his time to analyze the situation, almost certainly looking for loopholes, and there’s no time limit set anywhere, though the ruling coalition is obviously putting pressure and threatening to suspend him if he doesn’t act soon.

While that issue ended up somewhat on hold, another suddenly, and I’d say even more unexpectedly, appeared on June 6, when our Government requested to have the Rosia Montana file put on hold only weeks ahead of the vote which was widely expected to result in it being added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. Activists and protesters obviously reacted immediately, a petition which has by now gathered over 40000 signatures was created, a few other ways to get involved were suggested as well, and of course there were calls for a protest, scheduled on June 8, at the University Square fountain, the “traditional” location for protests back in 2013, when this issue can be said to have marked the reawakening of activism and civic engagement in Romania.
Unfortunately, at most 500 people, maybe only about 400, answered those calls. I was one of them, getting there a little before the scheduled start time of 6 PM, then wandering away for a bit, until something could actually happen, since there were only a few others present at that time. Even when the known activists called people forward, many stayed back and kept chatting, but that was happening back then as well, and in general the whole thing felt like one of those protests from back then. Almost all of the activists who were present and leading or trying to organize things then were there, even though some had pretty much stayed away from the other recent protests. Alex made another of his speeches to get things going, Claudiu led the chants and shouts, which were the same ones from back then, Petruta also helped at one point, signs and banners from back then were brought as well, as you can also see in the pictures I took… One new thing was that somebody brought a basket of cherries, with a sign saying they’re free and not sprayed with anything, and there actually were some left even when things were dying down. I for one left at 8:55 PM, the protest being for all practical purposes over by then.
The Rosia Montana matter was also the first issue listed in the description of the event created for June 10, starting from 6 PM. That was supposed to be another one of the regular weekend protests, but some of the known activists and groups which had been more or less staying away lately got more involved once again due to this, and I for one certainly hoped that this will be reflected in what will actually happen in Victory Square. So I got there at 6:05 PM, only saw a few people, wandered away for a bit, got back when some more had gathered, but after it could be said that the protest actually started, a little before 7 PM, Rosia Montana was hardly mentioned and, as you can also see in the pictures I took, there were only a few banners and signs about it, most of them brought by known activists from the “old guard”, if I may use the term. I’d say there were about 3000 participants at the peak, though that otherwise seems to be the high end of the estimates, the media mentioning 2000 or even just “over 1000”. But whatever the numbers were at the peak, quite a few had already left before 9 PM, when people were again asked to turn on lights and sing the anthem, and I also left immediately after that moment, having waited specifically for it despite having been bothered by shouts specifically in support of Kovesi and the President heard before that and picked up by many of those present.

In between, with the ruling coalition having their own massive event on June 9, most known activists and protesters wisely decided to stay away from the area that evening, even if some had a quick look on their way to, or from, Bucharest Pride, which took place that same day and started from Victory Square, where the ruling coalition’s supporters and all the others brought there to swell the numbers were already gathering at the time. The recent ruling of the European Court of Justice regarding the residency rights of same-sex spouses did offer some additional reasons to celebrate that day, though the fact that it specifically recognizes each country’s right to still ban same-sex marriage and only refers to the recognition of one particular right of those married elsewhere makes it look like a very small victory to me.

On June 11, Simona Halep returned to Romania and presented her Roland Garros trophy on the National Arena, the event being set to start at 8 PM. And I went, along with up to 20000 others, or around 15000 according to other estimates, the area that offered decent visibility being full by 7:30 PM and people being allowed not only in areas from which they couldn’t see much, but also to sit on the stairs or even to stand in front of the first row of seats. But the reason why I mention this in this post is that I saw an event created by one of the groups of activists, and they later revealed that the large banner which could easily be seen there had been made and brought by them, the font and colors being a subtle hint. That was much more reasonable than the picture posted by the old United We Save page, with the Save Rosia Montana logo on the trophy Simona was holding and a message asking her to help save it, which was something plenty of people, myself included, found inappropriate. But I’d say the crowd’s reaction to the presence of the Mayor of Bucharest on the stage was entirely appropriate. That started a bit of a mess though, and plenty of the comments posted on the Mayor’s page after that were quite awful, but at the same time… You reap what you sow.

Before ending this, I’ll return to the Rosia Montana matter and mention that on June 12 a few activists staged a brief flash mob in front of the Ministry of Culture, demanding the Minister’s resignation. Don’t know many other details about what actually happened, either there or in the Chamber of Deputies’ Culture Committee, where he had been called to answer questions about the situation on that same day, but he requested that the matter be discussed in the next meeting of the Supreme Council of National Defense (CSAT) and Wednesday the President approved the request. The next CSAT meeting will only take place on the 27th though, which may well be too late unless that request to put the file on hold will be withdrawn by then.


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