Types of street manifestations: protests in Romania
When ‘protest’ is mentioned, the image that tends to come to mind is of a large group of people in an open space calling for change. After several months of coding global news broadcasts, however, we realized that manifestations of dissent take on quite different forms, and decided to make distinctions between ‘protest’, ‘rally’, ‘march’ and so on. The demonstrations that took place in Romania this week underline the usefulness of these differentiations.
What started during the weekend as a peaceful rally, in honour of the people who died or were injured in a fire in a nightclub in Bucharest, turned into an anti-corruption protest last night, ending with the resignation of prime minister Victor Ponta and his government. The protest did not only take the form of a gathering in a square. It also involved a march, with demonstrators following a designated route and stopping in specific places (e.g. in front of the government building, in the square next to the Parliament building, or the office of local authorities).
The episode gives food for thought for our research in another respect. The protest had a very powerful trigger: the death of at least 32 young people attending a concert in Bucharest on the weekend. When developing our research design, we have talked about coding for what triggers a protest, as well as the issue involved. They are not always the same thing. In this week’s Romanian protest, the trigger (the nightclub deaths) is clearly identified, but in many of the protest reports we analyze, they aren’t. We have thus decided not to code for protest triggers in our quantitative analysis, which seeks to capture the denotative content of reports and avoid interpretation as much as possible, although triggers will feature at the next and deeper level of analysis.