Anti-lockdown protest in Romania in front of the Government

by Victor Grigore, Webphoto.ro

Romanians took to the street after two months of complete lockdown for coronavirus pandemic. The EU country was subjected to some of the harshest measures in Europe during this time, when a military state of emergency was declared. Today, the measure was shifted to an alarm state, which still limits a lot of civil liberties until an unspecified moment in the future, when the Government will consider the epidemic contained.

About 300 people gathered in capital Bucharest, in Victoria Square, where the Government HQ is. The protesters were diverse and gathered using social media without a leader. Some personalities from the alternative media were present, but there was no possibility for speeches to be held. These included publisher Iulian Capsali from Activenews, civic activist Pompiliu Diplan – who’s one hour presentation on how pandemic was used to manipulate people, was taken down by YouTube in the same day as an act of censorship. Lawyers Mihai Rapcea and Mihai Tociu held protest signs against the introduction of thermo-scanners as a way to control population’s movement.

Another protester had a t-shirt that read: “I was born in 1983, I don’t want my son to live in 1984”. The measures taken in the last two months by Romanian government were indeed dystopian. The economy was shut down, except for a few supermarkets, public transport and some „essential” services. People were not allowed to live the city they lived in and for walking out of their homes had to present a written declaration on the purpose of being out on the street. Seniors over 65 were only allowed outside for two hours a day in the morning, which created long lines at food stores. After 22 it was forbidden for anybody to be outside of the house.

Police used the reason of the written declaration to fine over 1% of total population of the country, with tickets as high as 4.000 euros. Later the Constitutional Court declared these penalties unconstitutional, but people would still have to turn to a court for recovering the loss. Police manifested even cases of brutality from place to place, beating people for the simple reason of being out of their apartments after the “lights off” time of 10 o’clock PM.

Romanians, who are overwhelmingly Christian Orthodox, were also affected by the complete interdiction of attending religious mass during this time. This included interdiction for attending the Easter midnight service of lighting candles, a tradition which usually brings together a large part of the population. Such religious persecutions echoed the 45 years of communist dictatorship, that saw many priests and monks imprisoned for almost two decades.

The shift from military emergency to the state of national alert means easing out some restrictions, but not all of them. People are allowed to go outside without the signed declaration, but only within their locality. Workers are allowed to return to their jobs, some of which are in danger of being lost, if those small businesses will not recover. Some businesses like hotels, restaurants, large shopping malls, clubs, sport events are still not allowed. People will be allowed to go to church starting this Sunday, but not inside. Out in the yard, wearing a mask, respecting „social distancing” and without receiving the Eucharist. Also, wearing a mask is mandatory for all indoor spaces.

Participants are skeptic about the Covid pandemic, after it was revealed by a document of the National Health Institute that doctors were required to declare all patients „dead of coronavirus” if they tested positive and it could not be proven that this virus was not involved. This made statistics for fatalities rise to almost 1.000 people, in this country of 20 million people. Many of those declared dead of covid had serious illnesses as well, including terminal cancer, heart failure, diabetes, had suffered transplants, or operations. For some, found dead in their homes, the covid test was done after death. No autopsy was allowed to be carried out during this time, as a „safety measure”.

Locking down hospitals for almost anything else except the coronavirus flue, produced other unexpected victims. An NGO of people with chronic illnesses accused patients died while not being able to see a doctor or receive treatment on time.

People have many reasons to be furious with the way president Klaus Iohannis and prime minister Ludovic Orban handled this crisis. They accuse them of being servants of foreign interests, that not only took civil liberties, but also favored foreign multinational companies, hitting the middle class and local small businesses.

The pro EU president, who is of German origin and was reelected at the end of last year, was accused of being a dictator-wannabe and a traitor. When the pandemic emerged, over one million people entered the country, including from “red zones” like Italy, Spain and UK. They are part of the large diaspora of about 3-5 million Romanians working in other EU countries.

Moreover, during the total lockdown, when people were “locked” in their homes, the government discreetly allowed for tens of thousands of seasonal workers to gather in large numbers to be sent in Germany at the request of German authorities. Farm owners there relied on these Romanians for gathering asparagus. This was felt as a double standard and as an insult for Romanians, who were shocked to find out the seasonal workers were given slave-like conditions, working up to 14 hours a day with no protection against infections, living in common barracks. Some of them wanted to return home, but they were practically abandoned by the government who only allowed a one way exception for opening the air space.

During the two months of pandemic, the power was effectively seized by unelected officials – 2-3 „official” doctors, officers, the Interior Minister and the Health Minister, who were issuing military decrees every few days. An even more mysterious group, called Strategic Communication Group, took a full monopoly on public information, being the only one allowed to communicate the number of those tested, infected, dead or cured. The Group is not mentioned in any Romanian law and just issued press releases that were picked up by all media. The identity of no member of this Group was ever revealed to the public, leaving people to speculate they were press officers of the National Liberal Party or even officers of Romanian Secret Service.

The mysterious Group decided to block some websites, accused of “fake news” during the pandemic. This comes against the explicit interdiction in Romanian Constitution that „censorship is not allowed an no publication can be suppressed” (art 30). The most notorious website was Justițiarul (”vigilante of justice”), a publication known for writing in the past about corruption trials of president Klaus Iohannis. (As a result of these court decisions, the president, who branded himself as an „anti-corruption” fighter, lost two of his six houses, acquired with dubious documents.)

Censorship is not the only concern for those present to protest the lockdown measures in Romania. This month, mainstream media received 40 million euros in government handouts and people believe this turned TV stations into propaganda machines. In an opinion poll released today, 50% of the general population believes there has been a conspiracy between state authorities and the media.

The country has a half a century bad experience with an over-powerful secret police that was used during communism against political dissidents. Now, the introduction of thermal-scanning of people in certain institutions, biometric passports, the acquisition of face recognition technology by Police (this month) are added to the known practice of tap-wiring all phone conversations.

What protesters were most opposed to was the proposal of forced vaccination with a vaccine that will be invented somewhere in future. President Iohannis, an admirer of Angela Merkel, said vaccination should be mandatory for all, in his opinion.

Since people were not allowed to protest during the last two months, when even the military was brought to city center, some had other reasons to protest. A pensioner was upset that pension increase that was promised in a law for next fall, will probably be off the table, now that the country is already borrowing billions of dollars just to pay salaries and pensions at current level. Others were upset because the government used this two months lockdown to promote without debate a new education law, that introduces sex education and gender ideology „to promote tolerance” to children as little as 4. Schools were completely locked during this time and students will remain with whatever marks they had, being forced to attend online classes only.

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