Creative protests and where to find them
The answer to that would be: in Romania.
Bucharest, the Romanian capital, and other major cities in the country, have seen a week of manifestations triggered by an emergency decree that decriminalized certain acts of corruption in which the prejudice would be less than 44.000 €. Another reason why people expressed their anger in the streets was linked to the fact that this decree was adopted by the Government late at night. This generated a very popular protest slogan: “Noaptea, ca hotii!” – “At night, like thieves”. The Government’s reasons behind this decree was the attempt to reduce the overcrowding of prisons. On Sunday, February 5th, half a million Romanians were out on the streets in all major cities.
But above all, and important to our project, this led to coverage from the global news channels that we have in focus. Though after the first days of protests the issue didn’t come up in the most important news bulletins, those of the evening primetime, as days went by and as the number of protesters out on the streets increased, so did international coverage. The first channel to report on the issue was EuroNews, followed by RT and BBC World. The Romanian protests even made it in the headlines and our global broadcasters sent correspondents on site.
When coding for protest, an important variable is violence: acts of dissent get more coverage if the protests are violent. In the case of the Romanian protests, which are the biggest the country has seen since the fall of the Communism in 1989, violence was nearly absent. Security forces made sure that those instigating to violence were kept away from the manifestation. After that, the protests took quite the opposite turn: protesters brought flowers to the security forces, a day-time protest for children was organized, hundreds of thousands of lights were used symbolically to light up the protest site, Victoria Square, young demonstrators danced in the streets under the praise of other protesters, and even Vlad The Impaler came to offer support.
In the end, the Government repealed the decree but people are still out on the streets demanding Government resignation. The Social Democrats, who are the target of the protests and winners of December’s elections, and especially their supporters, organized counter-protests in front of the Presidential Palace, Cotroceni, asking for the President’s resignation. Klaus Iohannis showed his support for the people protesting, but also stated that the Social Democrats won the elections and should govern the country, but not at any price.
Screening Protest — "Creative protests and where to find them," in The Screening Protest Project, February 9, 2017