Written by Guest blogger Dorina (in Chisinau/Moldova). Here are part 1 and part 2 of her story! NEW: part 4
Soon after that the Presidency have been occupied, the protesters entered into the building, got on the roof and on the 1st level balcony and entered the cabinet of the Mr. Vladimir Voronin, the President of the Republic of Moldova and leader of the Communist Party. While entering the building the crowd was cheering “Oleg and Vova have stolen our Moldova” (Oleg as referring to the businessman Oleg Voronin the President’s son and Vova as referring to the President himself). The crowd got euphoric when they got pictures of the President and set them on fire. They also got out the flag of Republic of Moldova from the president’s office and got it down to the crowd.
On the other part of the street the protesters entered the Parliament building and a new wave of euphoria started when they got out furniture and equipment out of the building and set it on fire while pouring cognac into the fire from a bottle of cognac that somebody found in one of the cabinets of the Parliament. Then, they took out the door of the Presidency building and solemnly transported it above their heads, crossing the street, into the fire in front of the Parliament. See the photo stream here.
The situation was confusing, one could not realize what was really going on, and no leader of the groups which were devastating both buildings could be identified. And it did not matter to them when the leaders from the opposition parties (Vlad Filat, Liberal Democratic Party or Dorin Chirtoaca, Liberal Party) were coming in front of them and asking them to abandon the rocks and stop the violent behavior and go back to the National Square (PNAM) in order to protest peacefully. It was at this moment when police forces directed the water jets into the crowd and Vlad Filat got under it and youth were not moving a centimeter towards PNAM.
I tried talking to some of the people out there on the streets protesting. My attention got some old people that were supporting the youth saying “my dear, it was about time that the communists get what they deserve”. Behind me an old man was saying to a young protester: “I understand and support your cause, but make sure that you (as in the youth) do not get hurt”. In this videoyou can see old people saying that “a long time ago this should have been done, they (the communists) have destroyed our churches, so let it burn so no trace of communist can be found, they have destroyed everything, our culture, they sent us to Siberia, it’s time they are sent to Siberia! I believe that there was electoral fraud, they went to villages and fooled people around” (this is a short translation of the video).
Asking around why are they here and what do they think is going on, I got the following answers: “I did not vote for the communists, neither did my friends nor my parents, so I stand here to say “NO!” to communists”, “I believe that the elections were rigged, I cannot believe that again, 3 times in a row communists get a majority of votes. I refuse to believe that!” and others told me similar opinions. When I was asking if it was the right way to destroy the buildings and get violent, some said that “it was about time”, “after the first rock that flew about my head I knew there is no turning back”. Most of the young people I talked to said that they are against the acts of vandalism that this protest turned into, but that they did not want the communists to rejoice in their so-called wining of election.
On the other side, on PNAM, people were peacefully protesting, saying “no” to acts of vandalism, calling for the protesters in front of the Parliament and the Presidency to join them in PNAM. At a certain point a big number of people were leaving the site of the Presidency and the Parliament and moving towards PNAM (it was around 4 PM when the reporter from “Vocea Basarabiei” was reporting this movement). In the meantime, the protesters have anchored on the Presidency the EU flag and on the first level balcony the Romanian flag.
Leaving the office to return to downtown my last update was that the leaders of the opposition went to negotiate with the President of Moldova, the Speaker of the Parliament and the Prime Minister. The opposition was there to demand a recount of the votes, but from the videos that we later saw when we got home was that the opposition was mostly explaining to the President that they had nothing to do with the violent acts and that they want that the accusation that they are in fact the organizers should be officially dropped. The citizens could not see a strong opposition demanding what it wants.
It was around 8 PM when almost all protesters were in PNAM, in front of the Government building, and only some of them were still vandalizing the 2 assaulted buildings. Until almost 10 PM people were cheering in PNAM and continued protests and were raising their hands when asked for voting for a civic coalition built only by non-governmental representatives and no political parties. It was around this hour that Vlad Filat, the president of Liberal Democrat Party addressed the crowd in PNAM saying that: “The Communists want to focus on the violent actions and move away from the fact that elections were rigged.” He also underlined that the police that was in a small number at the protest could not assure the public order. Dorin Chirtoaca, vice-president of the Liberal Party said that there were provocateurs among the young people that were first to throw with stones and made that a peaceful action turn violent. An interesting image that appeared today was the on the top of the building of the Parliament, where 2 young men were waving the EU flag, when zooming the picture, behind them 2 police officers were standing calmly watching this. The question is – were they protesting?
People that came downtown, on April 7th 2009 wanted one thing – a change, apparently nobody expected such a turn-out. So, who’s to blame and who’s behind all of this? Later after 6 PM a lot of the protesters had this question in their minds. No one knew what’s going on and no one had an answer. “For the moment it is a little victory” some of the protesters standing beside me in PNAM were commenting.
So far, the facts are that: we had no internet connection for several good hours, people from other countries could not visited sites hosted in Moldova and also Moldovan internet users did not have access to them. People in the countryside, that have access only to the national TV station TVM 1 were not informed about the events from Chisinau, it was only at 5.30 PM that the national television started covering the subject showing some people expressing themselves against the protests, but not talking to protesters to find out what they think, thus trying to manipulate public opinion. Moreover, access to Chisinau was limited, starting with 11 AM on April 7th, buses and cars were stopped, and people were questioned and searched. Most buses with students were sent back from where they were coming. Mostly young students protested in their cities (in Ungheni and in Balti around 2000 gathered downtown), but the entries into the country at the Romanian border were impossible to cross for Moldovan students who were coming to support the protesters.
Another thing is that all protesters from PNAM went home until 1AM, on April 8th already, so did the last cameras and media representatives. Still some drunk people still stayed there, trying to make the cars go another way, trying to irritate the police force that was guarding the building of the Government and was behaving irrational due to the influence of alcohol. It was a couple minutes after 1 AM that several gun shots were heard in PNAM and people were running away. A witness of this told me that the police fired several shots in the air, people started running in different directions, and then police arrested several of them. Nobody knows so far what happened to them.
Photos taken on April 7, 2008 in central Chisinau/Moldova. Credit goes to “ADL” in Chisinau. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit the photos. Please mention ADL and link to kosmopolito.org if you do so. Click on any image to start a slide show. (I edited the photos after a hint by Luminita, thanks for that!)
“Revolution, here we come”. Read the eye witness report by Guest blogger Dorina in Chisinau - here are part 1 , part 2 , part 3 and part 4 of her story!
The population in Chisinau, the capital of Republic of Moldova doesn’t recognize the results of the elections in which the communists won. They believe the elections were rigged.
The protest continued today, April 7, from 10 AM and the youth are not willing to give up. People were coming to the National Square mainly with the same cheers as yesterday, but today the crowd was counting around 50,000 people. At some point, the crowd split in 2 – one part stayed in the National Square in front of the Government and the other part went to the Presidency and the Parliament. Around 11 AM, the only radio that could be accessed (“Vocea Basarabiei” ) was transmitting news from the the events and it was constantly informing about the turn of the events.
The youth was peacefully protesting in front of the police and did not bolster to violent acts. It was at 11.05 AM, that the reporter was informing that Petru Corduneanu, the police commissioner, had hit a young man and tried to block the journalists. It was only later, after the police forces tried to intimidate the protesters that they started throwing rocks at them screaming “We are not leaving!” Talking to some of the protesters from the first lines I found out that the armed forces “Scut” formed a human line from the Parliament to the Presidency (both of the buildings are situated on the Stefan cel Mare boulevard and are facing one another) and were intimidating the protesters by advancing on to them and beating with their bats in the bucklers. At first the crowds were in retreat. One person told me that at some point, when the police was approaching, the protesting girl next to him accidentally fell down and the policemen started beating her with their bats and some boys defeated her and got her back into the crowd. This was the hot moment when the first line of protesters sat down on the stairs in front of the Presidency screaming “We are not leaving!”, “Whom are you defending?” The “Scut” forces kept on advancing and this is when the protesters from the standing crowd started throwing rocks at them. Now, the crowd started advancing…
After this point it is difficult to describe what was happening, one has actually have to be there and live it. Parts of the action can be viewed here:
In the background of this video you can hear the crowd screaming “Thieves!”, “Demission!”, “Down with the communists!”
It was after this altercations that people in the offices that were trying to access different online media sources had really slow connection or could not access the web pages at all. Later on we understood that internet connections were down, local television did not broadcast and the national public television was broadcasting relaxation shows. Also, after 11.30 AM we could not reach protesters from the Square via their cell phones.
It was 1 PM when the windows of the Presidency building were all broken; up to the 3d floor and protesters were trying to enter the building, on the other side of the street the protesters were destroying the windows of the Parliament and one could see smoke coming out from inside the building. Now the protesters were screaming “Revolution”, “We are not giving up!”, “Down with communism!” and one could tell that they were not willing to give up.
It was during my lunch break that I was observing how the youth fought the jets of water coming from both – the Parliament and the Presidency and they clapped and laughed and cheered when the police special forces on barricades in both buildings ran out of water resources. This was the moment when the crowd got the feeling of wining over the police forces in front of the Presidency and they offered to them to get out of the building, the protesters even formed a free pass so that they could freely go out.
At this point, just across the street we heard a strong noise as if something exploded. From the building of the Parliament, the police forces were throwing some sort of devices that made a shattering noise and sprayed tear gas on the protesters which made it difficult for them to breathe and tears would come out of their eyes. Several of them got injured (later on this evening I saw an interview with one of the protester saying that at first he had no clue what has happened as after the big “BANG” he could not clearly hear and afterward someone told him to look at his legs. Apparently the device fell right next to him, torn his jeans apart and his legs from the knees down were in blood. The young man said that at first he could not feel pain and could not understand what was going on due to the noise in his head).
A second “bang” was heard and the protesters in front of the Parliament started running away. Around a minute later when the crowd understood that no one was shooting at them and it was no grenade, they slowly came back while the crowd in front of the Presidency was supporting them shouting “Come back!”, “Don’t give up!” The protesters came back and it was only several hours later that we could hear those “Bangs!” already familiar to the crowd that did not scare them at all.
Standing next to the broken windows and by the broken door of the Presidency the crowd was shouting “You also have kids!”, “Don’t steal our future!”. Even through some of the police forces went out through the formed corridor, most of them stepped out through some back door in the Presidency and the protesters invaded the building, getting out furniture, equipment, documents, reports and burning them.
For a photo stream from the spot, please visit the Unimedia.
What a day in Chisinau/ Moldova. Is it a twitter revolution as someclaimed? Or a grape revolution? Or not a revolution at all? One thing is remarkable: For the first time I did not switch on the TV for news updates but only checked twitter #pman and other news websites (for example Unimedia), mainly in Moldova and Romania. Mainstream (western) media was slow to report about the story today. It is not only happening on twitter, lots of facebook and photo sharing seems to be going on: And there are already lots of photos on the web, see for example here, here, here, here, herehere and here. For a good blog and video overview (in English) check Nosemonkey, Julien Frisch, Maladets andScraps of Moscow.
European media (see for example BBC, Spiegel,Sky News ) at least reported about the protests in Moldova although not as a main story, (former) news heavyweight CNN still does not cover the story (or I was not able to find it easily)… then again Moldova is a small country, demonstrations were not that huge and there was another earthquake in Italy. And similar events in Ukraine or Georgia only made it into the mainstream media after 2 days…
There have been a lot of rumors and unconfirmed stories which is quite normal in situations like this one. However, one should also take into consideration the Russian factor (Russia still supports the breakaway region Transnistria) as well as the nature of the regime in Moldova which has its democratic shortcomings as well as a tightly controlled media. Also the general technical infrastructure (internet, phone network) might not be able to cope with the heavy demand. At the moment it seems as if different scenarios are still possible depending on what will happen tomorrow – How will the police react? Will the army intervene? How many protesters will turn up again? What about Russia? Ukraine? etc.
Moldovan politicians were already talking about a attempt “coup d’etat” accusing Romania & “the West ” to be behind the protests. On the other hand, everything started with a peaceful demonstration backed by the major opposition parties. Protesters were mainly young people, however some of them started rioting and looting governmental buildings. Moreover, waiving Romanian flags on the building of the President is of course seen as a provocation. Police and fire brigades were ill-prepared. It is difficult to predict anything. So it will be interesting to follow the events tomorrow!
Guest blogger: Dorina (Live from Chisinau/Moldova) NEW: Read more here: part 2 , part 3 and part 4!
On April 6, at 6 pm, the second day after the Parliamentary elections, when the counting of almost 98% of the votes was indicating that the communist have won again (obtaining almost 50% and 61 seats in the Parliament out of the total of 101), young people gathered at the monument of Stefan cel Mare (Stephen the Great) from the National Square in the Republic of Moldova. Each one of them was holding a candle in his hand that was lightened in order to declare this day the National Mourning Day.
Most of the people found out about this initiative through different internet channels – blogs, forums and especially facebook. People got surprised and enthusiastic to see that more than thousand of participants came at first and in the next hour there were already 10,000 of them. After lighting candles at the monument of the national historic leader of all Moldovan people, young people went to the Parliament shouting “Down with the communists!”, “Better dead then communist!”, “I refuse, I resist! I am anti-communist!”, “Freedom!”, “Down with the censorship!”, “We want repeated voting!” Later on, the leaders of the opposition parties adhered to the cause of the protesters. From 6 pm till around 10 pm the long line of 10,000 people have stopped by all the important points: the Presidency, that faces the Parliament of the Republic, the Government and the Electoral Central Commission – all of this abide to the communist government and consider themselves democratic, open to the public institutions. On Monday the protest went on really peacefully and people were only cheering and singing, protesting against the communists that are ruling.
Today, there was a press conference of the organizers that explained that they did not expect so many people to gather, but apparently the cause was of great importance to them and that the electoral process has not been free and fair and that the youth only wanted their voice to be heard. Besides this, the organizers of the flashmob from April 6, also were unsatisfied that the opposition did not mobilize the youth before elections, but were concerned with the dividing the power between them. And the idea behind this protest is to create a big citizen coalition.