Quite amazed by the turnout at yesterday’s march, despite the very low media attention and especially after the starting location was changed on short notice, the announcement that the march will start from the National Library instead of Cismigiu Park due to the authorities refusing the original plan being made Wednesday. Did see the announcement shared by one of the known activists of the “old guard” and a few pages showed their support, but I expected people to be confused, and even saw a brief article posted hours before the start time on the site of the public radio station that still listed Cismigiu Park. High school students paid attention, however, and they made up the large majority of participants. There were probably some who weren’t even in high school yet, and some adults, but high school students were clearly the large majority, and the number of adults was disappointing, especially after you eliminate reporters, photographers, members of Demos who were gathering signatures there as well and a few known activists.
The listed schedule asked people to gather at the National Library at 4 PM and the event was supposed to end at 5:30 PM, but I arrived at 3:55 PM and many were already there, plenty trying to find good spots to show their signs or, in some cases, rushing to write them on the spot. Even though there are groups made specifically for this and a few other organizations were apparently also involved, Greenpeace seemed to have taken on the responsibility of being the obvious organizers, wearing distinctive t-shirts and one of their activists also having the only loudspeaker I saw. It was she who usually led the shouts and chants, both there and later, though some definitely struck me as being translated directly from the most common ones used by the movement elsewhere and sounding strange or even risking to give the wrong impression here.
The march started at 4:30 PM, and despite the number of participants we had to stay on the sidewalk, this also being the only way the authorities had accepted a march at all. Due to the very low media attention, all but a few of the photographers and reporters present being independent and even a site known to specifically follow and report on protests seeming to completely ignore this one, I have few estimates of the numbers, none of them from the sources I usually use for this, and those estimates are completely useless, ranging from a few hundred to over 3000, but there definitely were over 1000 people there. How much more, I can’t say, not being sufficiently familiar with the start and end locations and the column stretching due to having to squeeze on the sidewalk on the way, but I’m quite sure there would have been enough to take to the street and doubt the gendarmes would have pushed back too hard, as they seemed to be on their best behavior. But with clear and formal organizers who’d have been fined for it and so many teenagers and even some children there, I guess doing so was never a real possibility, and it wasn’t attempted.
Either way, the Ministry of Environment was reached a little after 5:05 PM and the gendarmes split the participants in two, setting up the fences so the way to the entrance will remain clear and a narrow path will be left all around as well and telling people to spread out on both sides so they’ll all fit. Photographers were doing their best to get out and still move around and I eventually switched from the side I ended up on to the other and then back again as well, and stayed outside the fenced area for a little while too, but those without a press badge were being asked to stay behind the fences and it was hard to move around in there as well, so I missed some opportunities to take better pictures. But I took quite a lot anyway, the problem now being to delete some more of them.
There was no way that people would just clear out so quickly, so that listed end time of 5:30 PM came and went as people were still chanting and, eventually, speaking as well, when the organizers asked those who had something to say to come and use the loudspeaker. It’d have probably continued even longer than it did, but the equipment for some concert was being set up in Constitution Square, not sure whether for the city’s anniversary celebrations which are to take place over the weekend or for something that was supposed to already happen that evening, and the sound checks made it quite impossible to continue, so after a few attempts to find quieter moments or shout louder the end was announced at 6:15 PM and people started clearing away. It was actually only around the end that I was also given one of those papers with the URL and a code for the survey which participants were asked to fill, this having been announced before the protest and some of those who had gathered at the starting location before the start of the march being asked to fill it on the spot.
Overall, I was most pleased by the signs with messages against capitalism and definitely pleasantly surprised by the total turnout, considering the circumstances and the fact that the previous, “regular” Friday events were, from what posts I saw, hardly attended by anyone other than the few who organized and announced them. And the international note of the protest, with so many signs in English and quite a few foreign participants as well, is just how it should be for what is an international movement. On the other hand, I am very disappointed by the fact that it remained pretty much a school strike and, worse, received very little media attention. The few articles that even bothered to mention the event at all usually only consisted of a few lines, the couple of reports I caught on television didn’t say much more either, even some sources that used to specifically follow protests ignored it completely, there wasn’t as much as a whisper about an actual strike of workers, going against the capitalist system that’s actually driving this destruction, and few adults were present at all. But let’s see what will happen next…