The protest against austerity measures organised by the great unions in Bucharest in Piata Victoriei on Wednesday, May 19, is over. The participants - 50,000 according to the organisers, 30,000 according to the Gendarmeries' estimates - have left the square. But unions threaten to call general strike on May 31. The protest, assisted by approximately 1,200 cops and gendarmes, was well organised, so that not unexpected events interfered.

The protest began earlier than authorised by the city's council (11am local time) and finished around 13:30. During the protest, several protesters had to be transported to the Floreasca Emergency Hospital and other twenty-two had to receive care in the two first aid tents set up for emergency cases, according to SMURD doctor Constantin Oletanu, Mediafax informs.

UPDATE 13:25 Unions threat with calling a general strike on May 31: "The last message is the general strike on May 31", a shout from the tribune announced.

13:20: A Romanian artist is performing a hip-hop protest song on the stage

13:10: Around 15,000 protesters remained in Piata Victoriei

12:54: A group of policemen, union members, are shouting at the Government: "Thieves!" and threw their caps on the walkway in front of the Government’s building.

12:45: Little by little, small groups of protesters leave Piata Victoriei. The authorisation for protest expires at 1 pm.

12:30: The atmosphere in Piata Victoriei is relatively calm. No tension to lead to potential violence. Many protesters seem tired after the long journey to Bucharest and the standing.

UPDATE 11.55 HotNews reporters estimate a number of approximately 30,000 protesters

UPDATE 11.50 Spiru Haret Union Federation president Marius Nistor

  • We are in Piata Victoriei [Victory Squate], [the square] of victory against dictatorship.
  • Over 60,000 union members are here and millions support us.
  • Wake up, respectful leaders, the presidential elections are behind us. It is time you know the reality we all live in.
  • We're living in a country where those in power starve their children, starve their parents, and condemn their pensioners to death.  

UPDATE 11:40 Union leader asks the Government's resignation

Bogdan Hossu, leader of Cartel Alfa union bloc, has asked the Government to resign:

  • After refusing to discuss with us, they announced their achievement: cutting pensions, salaries, unemployment benefit and they asked us to show solidarity. We ask them to show us solidarity and resign.
  • Mr. President Basescu must dismiss this Government and bring another one, capable of working for the citizens
  • The only issue is Down with the Government. Leave! They ask us today to make another sacrifice. Our reply is a firm NO.
  • We want to work and we want a decent, normal salary for our work.
  • We have to remind them that they did not want to change the letter and we've been stagnating for 10 days, because there is no other solution. One solution may be the change of the current government and we remind them that this is one of the best solutions

UPDATE 11:30 LibDem Marcel Hoara has been intensively booed by protesters while interviewed by Antena 3 news channel in Piata Victoriei. The journalists intervened to calm the protesters.

UPDATE 11:00 From the set-up tribune, people shout: "Where is the metallurgy, where are the miners, where are those in car manufacturing?", "Come and take the laces, We need to occupy the square", "Where are those in Bucharest? Come along!"

Union members claim that there are 50,000 people in the square, but reporters in Piata Victoriei estimate around 20,000.

UPDATE 10:30: A row of several thousand people enter Piata Victoriei (union members from Iasi, Suceava, Botosani, Brasov, Prahova, Vrancea), shouting anti-Basescu slogans. They have banners reading "Basescu, economic assassin", "The resignation of the irresponsible who leads the country into disaster and civil war through lies and social instigation"

The first groups of union members started to come in Piata Victoriei shortly after 9 am (local time). The five big union confederations promised to bring in Piata Victoriei over 60.000 people to protest against austerity measures imposed by the Romanian Government in what has been announced to become on of the biggest protests Romania has seen in the last years.

There were several thousand people in Piata Victoriei before the start of the protest. For the moment, people are coming in small groups. The protesters sang "The Penguin’s Dance", which became famous after a rally organised by a local mayor on May 1:

"A Penguin heads the Government / And everything moves slowly, slowly, slowly

A Penguin brings hell / But he thinks himself as dragon, dragon, dragon

Berceanu and Udrea and Blaga and Oprea / They all are led by Boc, Boc, Boc

And nothing in the Government works with them there / And everything here stagnates, stagnates, stagnates

A penguin leads a gang / Which makes no advance, advance, advance

The Government did not impose additional restrictions at the Piata Victoriei entrance. Journalists are allowed in the Palace Court. PM Emil Boc was out, in front of the Government's headquarters.

Public Sector Employees National Alliance SED LEX leader Vasile Marica declared for Realitatea TV news channel that "all the political class which has been in power for the last 20 years has been stealing".

"They were never reformed as parties and they ask us today to reform ourselves", he said, accusing that "the fools have paid all gifts in the electoral campaign, which have not been bought with the politician's money, but with public money. "And now we're paying", he concluded.

Buses with protesters have left big cities like Timisoara (west), Iasi (North-East), Sibiu (Central), Constanta (south-east), Brasov (Central), Targul Mures (North). 15o miners from Valea Jiului will join them. They left Petrosani last night, heading towards the Capital in three buses, TV channels broadcast.

The busses filled with union members will be accompanied by gendarmes from the entrance in Bucharest to Piata Victoriei.

Over 1,000 miners are heading towards Bucharest to take part in the protests.