- Posted October 2, 2013 by
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- ‘The Arab Spring, the Turkish Summer, The Romanian Autumn’: Romanian protests as a model of peaceful demonstration
The Romanian Autumn Continues: The Dawn of Real Democracy in Romania?
Despite a rainy and cold day in Bucharest, tens of thousands of Romanians took to the streets for the fifth Sunday consecutively to protest against a draft bill passed by the government approving a cyanide-based open-pit mining project at Rosia Montana. They oppose the government’s recent passing of a draft legislation that could allow the project to start. According to Gabriel Resources Ltd., the Canadian company behind the scheme, the plan for the project is to dig up the estimated 314 tons of gold squirreled away in Rosia Montana using an astonishing amount of 40 tons of cyanide per day. The Bucharest protesters were joined by tens of thousands more in other Romanian cities and abroad.
The global youth-led Romanian initiative is currently the largest environmental protest movement in Europe and the world and continues to be a model of non-violent resistance. Since the beginning of the protests, the strategies employed by the protesters to make their voice heard and attract media attention have diversified, even though their goals have remained the same since the beginning of the protests. These include rejecting the draft law, banning cyanide mining and placing Rosia Montana on Romania’s proposal list for UNESCO. Apart from potentially bringing one the largest environmental victories in recent history, the global protest movement could also mark a new democratic dawn in the post-communist Eastern European country, by redefining the relationship between the people and their representatives.
During their continuous demonstrations, the Romanian protesters have started developing innovative tactics to inform and engage other Romanian citizens about the Canadian-led project and its implications and to try to capture national and international media attention, which have thus far failed to adequately cover the protests. Apart from renewing and diversifying their slogans and chants, in Bucharest, protesters organized a guerrilla information campaign in subways and trams to distribute fliers to passengers, who might be otherwise misinformed by mainstream media, which has been widely showing the publicity spots of the Canadian company. The protesters have also tried to engage the part of the Romanian audience, which might be unable to attend the demonstrations in person for various reasons, but nevertheless support the movement. Among other initiatives, on Sunday, September 22, the protesters launched a candle-lighting initiative for Rosia Montana, encouraging people to place candles alongside a small message on behalf of the cause on their window pane.
The Romanian diaspora has also been highly innovative in countering the lack of national and international media attention, by raising awareness among foreigners about the project and the draft bill. They have chosen strategic and symbolic locations to protest in the cities where they live. In London, the protests have been organized in Trafalgar Square, in New York, in front of the United Nations, while in Washington DC, they have been taking place in front of the White House.
In Chicago, the protesters organized a screening of a 20-minute documentary on Rosia Montana at the Romanian Cathedral. In Washington, the Romanian demonstrators distributed fliers to passer-byes, which provide them with specific suggestions on how they can become involved, ranging from signing the online petitions to taking part in the protests. Inspired by the initiative in candle-lighting initiative in Romania, they did the same in front of the Lincoln Memorial, as seen in the photo that accompanies this article.
While the outstanding youth-led movement in Romania and abroad clearly demands political attention and compliance to its set of requests, most Romanian politicians have refused to show any consideration or interest in the protests. What is more, many protest-related articles and videos reveal and often decry the utter disregard that some politicians hold for the people that they are representing. A relevant example of this happened during a visit undertaken by several parliamentarians to discuss about the project with Eugen David, a farmer residing in Rosia Montana and the President of Alburnus Maior, one of the leading NGOs organizing the protests.
The visit took place at David’s house in Rosia Montana. Before even listening to David’s arguments, who had just been handing out folders with relevant materials regarding the project, one of the politicians stood up and not only questioned where David had gained the money to print three folders, but also condemned his lack of formal attire upon receiving the delegation. Without even hearing his ideas, the parliamentarian had chosen to discredit David based on his clothes. The politician, like many others in Romania, seemed oblivious of the fact that he is ultimately the servant of that man, who, through his agricultural work, was paying his salary and allowing him to afford his fancy costume.
The political indifference or disrespect has only strengthened the protesters’ determination to win this war with the politicians, despite the increasingly deteriorating weather in Romania. The struggle for Rosia Montana is not simply about preserving a culturally and historically important part of Romania. Through the global protest movement, the Romanian youth is claiming its right to be heard and respected by the country’s leaders and is demanding the construction of a truly democratic Romanian state, in which politicians are accountable to their people, treat them with respect and implement policies that are in the nation’s interest.