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Thirty injured as Romanian protest turns violent

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, January 15, 2012 19:35 EDT
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BUCHAREST — More than 30 people were injured Sunday during a protest that turned violent in Romania’s capital, with demonstrators throwing stones and riot police using tear gas, medical sources said.

“We have so far registered 33 injured,” Cristian Grasu, the head of Bucharest’s ambulance service, told AFP.

“Fifteen of them, including three policemen, were taken to the emergency hospital, the others received treatment on the spot.”

A TV journalist was beaten by protesters while he was broadcasting live.

Around a thousand Romanians had gathered in central Bucharest to voice anger at falling living standards and call on President Traian Basescu to step down.

But hours after the beginning of the peaceful demonstration, about a hundred hooded youths started throwing stones, firecrackers and smoke bombs, repeating the previous night’s scenario, when a dozen people were injured.

The riot police responded with tear gas and pushed back the demonstrators who were trying to block traffic in University Square.

Joined by other, mostly young people, the hooligans occupied one of Bucharest’s main boulevards, continuing to throw stones at the policemen.

Several trash containers were set on fire and newspapers kiosks torn down.

The police said that most of the trouble makers were fans of Steaua and Dinamo football clubs, involved in previous violent incidents.

About 30 protesters were taken into police custody.

Many of the peaceful demonstrators said they had come to voice their support for the founder of Romania’s emergency medical services, Raed Arafat.

Arafat, a Palestinian-born doctor, was forced to resign earlier this week after a row with President Basescu over controversial health reform proposals.

Arafat is widely praised in Romania for setting up a modern emergency service after the fall of communism.

His departure has triggered protests that spread to more than 20 cities over the last three days.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Emil Boc visited one of the policemen injured during the previous night’s clashes.

“Throwing stones is not a solution, what we need is dialogue,” Boc told journalists. The prime minister ruled out stepping down, stressing that it was up to Parliament to decide on the government’s fate.

“At this time of crisis, political stability is crucial,” he added.

The opposition Social-Liberal Union (USL) called for an extraordinary session of parliament in order to “debate the current political situation and the unprecedented social tensions”.

“With Romania appearing to be a non-governed country, the only solution is to call early elections,” the USL leaders said.

General elections are scheduled for late 2012.

Copyright © 2012 AFP. All rights reserved.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
AFP journalists cover wars, conflicts, politics, science, health, the environment, technology, fashion, entertainment, the offbeat, sports and a whole lot more in text, photographs, video, graphics and online.
 
 
 
 
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