One of the poorest villages in Romania has been standing up against the US giant corporation Chevron for almost four months now. Subsequently, they are facing the Romanian State, brutality from riot police, and US army general Wesley Clark.
In an attempt to prevent fracking, villagers and activists broke the fences surrounding 22,000 acres of wide terrain, where Chevron is starting to explore for shale gas. The conflict has been mounting over the past week in particular, after the government imposed a military-style blockade against the village. The government police blocked the roads, basically isolating villagers: even children were not allowed to go to the near-by village school according to the activists.
With the help of activists from different Romanian cities, villagers managed to stop the explorations of Chevron on Saturday. The riot police, almost outnumbering them, failed to stop the resistors. The 500 strong anti-Chevron resistance defeated the 400 romanian state riot police force, as managed to tear down the fences surrounding the explorations site. In anger, people threw stones at the Chevron equipment. The riot police responded with brutality.
The following video shows how the villagers broke down the fences, chanting at the riot police:
“Shame, shame on you!,” “Riot cops defend the thieves!,” “Romania: Police State!”.
During the conflict, riot cops broke the ribs of 25-year old Valentin Popa. “The police hit him with their sticks and when he fell on the ground they hit him with their boots,” villagers told a local paper.
State riot police were supported by the private security company hired by Chevron. The following video shows the private security agents attacking villagers with stones.
While the conflict was still going on, Chevron issued a press release announcing they would again suspend their activities. Reportedly ‘Chevron’ proceeded to file a complaint against the local villagers for damaging their fences. The next day, Chevron issued another press release announcing they resumed their operations. People reported that local people are being arrested at random in the village. 3 teenagers who were taking their cows to the commons were reportedly abducted by the state riot police on Sunday morning and taken to the police station in Vaslui. All of them are underage.
Following this, dozens protesters were detained. Reportedly 15 people will be prosecuted under the penal code, they risk at least 2 years of jail. On the other side 14 people will be criminally prosecuted for cursing the cops. As well as 7 people were financially punished, and will be forced to pay fines from 500 (€112.29) lei to 5,000 (€1,122.90) lei for refusing to disobey the riot police’s orders. The fines are huge: 500 lei is almost the entire monthly pension of romanian people.
A doctor from Vaslui, George Silvestrovici, tells the story of how he was illegally arrested and injured:
•When I heard the police order people to move away, I left. In a hurry I fell and hurt my leg. I could not move, I stayed on the ground. Suddenly a riot police van came up and I was captured, with no explanation. I was taken to the police station in Vaslui, together with some dozens of protesters. They kept me there for 5 hours, no medical assistance, nothing. They never told me why they arrested me. Then suddenly they let us go. No explanation, nothing. This is an abuse!•.
After the skirmishes, some activists returned at their remaining tents that the riot police could not dismantle days ago. The villagers ran to their homes, chased by the police, who blocked the road in and out of the village again.
The evening Nightmare!
When night fell, the riot police unexpectedly unleashed terror against the village. They destroyed activists’ tents under the pretext of •being filthy•, >as it happened in New York during the Occupy protests< an activist recall.
A blockade was imposed again by the State troops, covering the entire Pungeşti commune. Riot police stormed into people’s houses, beating, threatening and kidnapping civilians from their beds to take them to the police station several witness claim their testimony. Some villagers were fined because they let activists sleep in their houses over night, as the state authority claimed •illegally•.
People hide in their houses in darkness for fear of being attacked. As it is reported from activists, 20 people were caught by the state police forces inside a local store from the near-by village, Armăşoaia. They went there to keep warm, but as it is reported, police use the force and brutally arrested them.
Mariana Moroşanu, a local woman from the village Armăşoaia, called a TV station in Bucharest and described what happened:
•Around 7:30 pm, I went to the local store for some groceries. Suddenly, a police van appeared down the road. 10 masked riot police descended. They ran towards us and started to hit us. They beat us brutally. They beat women and men, locals and visitors. They captured some people and threw them in their van. Someone threw a stone at their van. We will not give in, I tell you• the lady stated to the TV.
Another local man Vasile Lungu, testifyes as follow:
•It was dark already and I was in the store. Suddenly masked riot cops stormed in. They started to hit us. A boy took out his phone to record what was happening. They attacked him and then they yelled at us that, if we dare film them, they will confiscate our phones. They ordered the lights out. A cousin of mine, who suffers from a handicap, and I were beaten just for being in the store. Then the riot cops told us: ‘If you tell anyone about this, we’ll be back• said the old man.
A witness wrote on Facebook how the riot cops were arresting people for simply walking down the streets, or from their houses and from a local bar.
•I saw the riot police drag a local village man from his house into their van. They hit him repeatedly. Vlad Ioachimeacu and Claudiu Craciun were beaten. Hetti is running away so they won’t catch her. Let’s be clear. The riot police came to the village, when the night fell, to arrest the protesters they could not capture at the Chevron site during the day. Nobody is safe, not even the journalists. Nobody talks about this. If we don’t answer the phones, it means they took us in• stated the witness.
Another witness wrote this on her Facebook account:
•They (the riot police) arrest people from their houses. They storm in, and beat people in their houses. We hide inside. The lights are out. We wait. What do we wait for? We don’t know. We’ve called 112 (the emergency police service) to ask for help, nothing happened. They said they can’t do anything about it. Outrageous!•.