I’m in no state to give details and don’t know that many either, since I haven’t exactly been following things over the past month, but both the efforts and the success need to be marked. Only attended Thursday’s protest, which was small and quite clearly had no influence in the outcome, and didn’t even take any pictures, and in fact there won’t be links of any kind in this post, especially since I’m writing it off-line, but I’ll just quickly write what I know…
After the PSD government asked for Romania’s submission asking for Rosia Montana to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage site to be suspended, in order for the procedure not to need to be started all over again, Romania had to ask for the suspension to be lifted before February 1, 2021. However, with PNL having replaced PSD at the top for the moment and elections coming later this year, obviously making them want to avoid angering people, it was a moment that couldn’t be lost and a campaign demanding the suspension to be lifted in time for the matter to be discussed again this year was launched. There wasn’t much time, the suspension needing to be lifted before February 1, the exact deadline I saw actually being 7 PM on January 31, but this is the issue that tends to unite everyone, so both the “old guard” and the activists that led the rather different movements that took place over the past three years joined hands, individually or as groups or NGOs, and in the end, despite those in power saying until the last day that the matter was being analyzed carefully and reminding those asking that the deadline won’t pass for another year, so there’s still plenty of time, the request to lift the suspension was actually sent on January 31. They stressed that public pressure had nothing to do with the decision, but that seems highly unlikely.
As far as I saw, it actually started with a few messages and an article in one of the few remaining major newspapers that simply reminded people of the issue, followed by some announcing that something was being prepared, but without details. The first clear campaign was started by Declic, asking people to send e-mails to the Prime Minister and relevant Ministers asking for the suspension to be lifted, and that campaign had some success, considering the short amount of time that was available. In addition, Declic also asked for donations to purchase advertising space on the large displays at Cocor, and actually managed to gather enough money to be able to display the demand there before the end of the month.
While that was going on, some “old guard” activists, including some that hadn’t really been involved in protests in years, made a huge banner listing the demand and also stating that PNL and PSD love RMGC, pretty much finally bringing back the old slogan stating that PNL and PSD are the “same filth”, which had been forgotten in recent years, those taking charge of the more recent protests and campaigns focusing only on PSD and, in some cases, even openly supporting PNL. And that banner was displayed in various places around Bucharest, with some similar efforts, albeit on a smaller scale, being made in a few other cities as well. In addition, there were a few small events staged in front of PNL’s headquarters, again making the point that they were just like PSD.
One notable event took place on January 29, when a few activists displaying that banner in University Square were detained for quite a few hours. Until then there had been no problems, the gendarmes being unusually accommodating, but at that point the Police got involved, and I heard that an agent simply took a knife and started cutting the banner down, and then someone of very high rank was called in and he ordered them all taken in. However, I heard that only one of the “old guard” activists was given a fine, the others eventually being released with only a warning, but after quite a few hours, during which time things had gotten heated outside of the precinct they were held in, where a few of the regulars from the past few years of protests and a few independent journalists had gathered, one of those protesters bringing eggs and throwing them, then simply pulling out his ID card and waiting to be taken in as well. That didn’t sit well with that high-ranking guy, however, and I heard that, after he furiously demanded to know who else had been throwing eggs a number of times, other agents eventually, and rather awkwardly, started pointing at a few others who were better known, giving him reasons to fine those as well. But probably the most infuriating part came when he was bothered by an independent reporter who was documenting the whole thing, becoming even more aggressive, kicking her camera and eventually ordering agents to grab her and literally drag her in, where she was also held for a while, pretty much laughed at by other agents, and eventually fined as well.
With time running out, although it was quite clear that the turnout was going to be so low that an actual protest on the matter was likely to actually send the message that too few people cared, especially since said protest needed to take place on a weekday, a protest was in fact announced, for the evening of January 30, from 5 PM, in Victory Square. Also heard that the Prime Minister came to talk to the few who had been in Victory Square during the day, but didn’t really get any details. Do have more about the protest itself, on the other hand, since that was the only one I attended, though it was indeed a sad affair, and I only counted about 150 people several times, so that peak number, if it can even be called as such, held quite steady from 6:45 PM or so, if not even 6:30 PM, until 7:30 PM, when I left. Did see more people, including some of the known activists, start to leave around that time, so I think that was pretty much the point when numbers started dropping.
Plans to start a march were being made around 6:45 PM, with hopes that despite the low numbers we’ll be allowed to take up one lane of the road, but I guess they were dropped when Alex noticed a group of several people leaving and couldn’t persuade them to stay. Still, that large banner had been brought, and ropes as well, and there was a cable passing overhead, probably one which had been used to hang the Christmas lights, so in order to at least do something with some impact, a number of people got together and eventually managed to raise the banner. As they were trying to do so, gendarmes came in, saying that what they were trying was illegal, and there were some heated discussions, but I don’t think anything else came of it, and they didn’t actually try to stop them. In addition, some people who said they had a protest announced for that same place that evening, between 8 PM and 10 PM, showed up during those discussions and said that, in order to avoid giving any reason for our protest to be declared illegal, they’ll cancel theirs, again showing that this is the issue that pretty much everyone will work together on.
Otherwise, there was another long banner, brought by others and held up by a number of people standing behind it, and a few smaller ones, including two brought by Greenpeace and one by Declic. Mihai Gotiu was also present from the start, and one of the “old guard” activists actually pointed out that, even in this crowd, very few politicians would have been welcomed so readily. But, of course, he led the protests in Cluj back then, before eventually moving into politics. Nicusor Dan was also there early on, but he left rather quickly, well before Vlad Alexandrescu and a few Demos members, including Claudiu, arrived. As for shouting, there wasn’t much of that, a few attempts being made by those holding that long banner around the time the “old guard” was making plans for a march, followed by a few minutes of more successful efforts by the “old guard” after that large banner was finally up. Must admit I was quite pleased when people actually took up that “same filth” chant about PSD and PNL at that point.
I probably missed some more things and messed up some details, but I do know that other efforts included an open letter signed by a few NGOs and sent to the President, asking for him to get involved, and Declic asking people to send individual messages to him as well on the day of the protest. In addition, there were talks about showing up at PNL headquarters in various cities the next day and even attempting to go inside and “occupy” them, as a final attempt to generate sufficient pressure. And a few such protests did take place on January 31, starting in the morning. But then the announcement came, at a point when few, if any, still actually believed that success was possible. This is far from the end of it, of course, but for now it’s a step in the right direction.