Estimates put the total number of anti-austerity protesters at over 660,000 people. Naturally, such a protest has captured the front pages of Portuguese newspapers. Diário de Notícias going with the headline “Outrage took to the street”:
Jornal de Noticias went with a photo of the mass protest in Porto, the other two papers showing crowds in Lisbon.
During the height of the protests in the capital, news helicopters filmed the jammed streets along the march:
Protesters assembled outside Portugal’s two largest cities. Thousands march and chanted against the IMF in Setúbal:
In Santarém, crowds chanted that the time has come for the government to go:
In Lisbon, Praça de Espanha was transformed into an expansive sea of humanity:
By night fall, thousands spontaneously gathered around the parliament in Lisbon, a small group of the crowd attempting to break past the police blocking the steps to the national assembly:
Days of largely spontaneous protests in Bucharest descended into riots as police and protesters clashed violently on the streets:
Originally provoked by healthcare privatization plans, the protests have broken out yet again on Monday, the fifth straight day, with over 1,000 protesters rallying in Bucharest. The protests have since transformed into a general challenge to the government as reported by ABC News:
“Protesters who gathered in freezing temperatures for a fifth day of demonstrations chanted ‘Freedom!’ and held banners saying ‘Hunger and poverty have gripped Romania!’ They waved flags with the center ripped out, a symbol of the 1989 uprising against former Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.”
Video from Romanian television news of these latest demonstrations on Monday:
These protests are in the context of the 2009 IMF, EU, and World Bank loan which imposed heavy austerity measures on the Romanian people. The austerity measures reduced wages in the public sector by 25% while taxes were raised on the population amid a worsening economy. Protesters have directed their anger at both the Romanian government, demanding the prime minister resign, and the European Union:
“‘Five years of European Union membership did not bring anything good, on the contrary, poverty, frozen pensions,’ Ioan Mendea, a 73-year old former jurist, who ekes out a living from a 900 lei ($260) monthly state pension, told Reuters.
‘This government, prime minister, president must go.'”
The official parliamentary opposition is only now attempting to catch up with the mood on the streets. While organizing future mass demonstrations against the government, the opposition is joining calls demanding the government resign. But this certainly holds the threat of another liberal opposition simply using the street’s momentum to drive the alternative wing of the political class into power to continue the austerity demanded by foreign creditors.
From Greece, to Portugal, to Ireland, the last few years in Europe have proven that no part of the political class can trusted. Governments in Spain, Greece, and Portugal have fallen to street protests only to be replaced by even more fanatical austerity regimes. The demands today on the streets of Bucharest must be kept on the streets and out of the hands of the liberal opposition, a liberal opposition that will hold the pretense of outrage only until the final ballots are counted in the next election.