Pro-unification March in Balti disrupted by violence

Members and of the movement “Actiunea 2012” campaigning for unification with Romania protested outside the Ministry of Interior building after they returned from Balti, where their pro-unification march earlier on Sunday was stopped by the police following violent incidents, including a reporter being hit on the head by stone-throwers, Info-Prim Neo reports. When “Actiunea 2012” members and supporters started their authorized peaceful procession on Sunday, they were met by counter-demonstrators, mostly residents of the city and members of political parties and organizations describing themselves as “patriotic”. Among the public figures demonstrating against the unification march were Social-Democrat leader Victor Shelin, activist Maia Laguta and Gagauzia Governor Mihail Formuzal. It was reported that the counter-demonstrators came to the northern capital on at least four buses from Chisinau and two other buses from Gagauzia. The police had to circumvent the marchers to defend them from the counter-demonstrators. According to reporters, Victor Shelin's group pushed several marchers and threw eggs at the police officers surrounding them. During the clash that ensued, a female reporter from a Chisinau TV channel was hit on the head with a stone and hospitalized. The police reported that the perpetrator was arrested. Further, the police had to use tear gas to defuse the tension. Several men were caught carrying bats and the police assume they were intended to be used during clashes. Eventually, the local authorities urged the organizers to disperse and later ordered the police to end the march. The demonstrators went frustrated to Chisinau to protest against the fact that they were forced to disrupt a peaceful procession that was announced well in advance for the police to prepare for any situation. Interior Minister Dorin Recean held a news conference on Sunday evening to praise the police for a good job, promising that those responsible for inciting or committing violence would be punished. Dorin Recean in particular stated that the police did their best to protect demonstrators from both sides, yet the organizers were not able to control their own activists. “We discussed with organizers from both camps, requesting them to respect the law on assemblies and cooperate with the police in order to avoid altercations. The policemen involved were trained how to respond to potential violence. However, there took place actions other than those initially announced by the organizers”, said the Minister. He added that when the situation turned sour, the police intervened promptly to “evacuate” the people who were “at a greater risk”, and namely the participants in the pro-unification march, and the organizers were urged to end it. The Minister further stated that several instigators were being interviewed and two sets of criminal proceedings were started. The investigated offenses include hooliganism, instigation to hatred, unauthorized road closure and violations against freedom of assembly. Around 600 police officers were deployed to ensure order during the march, which was attended by roughly 4,000 people.

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