Romania’s peasants are the country’s backbone. They feed the vast majority of the population. The government however, regards them as unproductive and has been backing a major rush for their lands to develop e.g. shale gas, gold and silver mining or large scale industrial farming. Daily protests in Romania and abroad have been the consequence for the past four months but rather than safeguarding its people, Romania’s police is increasingly using heavily-armed special forces to crush down all acts of civil disobedience.
Last Saturday Willy Schuster co-president of ARC2020 member EcoRuralis was taken, beaten and interrogated by Romania’s gendarmerie as he joined a protest against shale gas exploration drills in Pungesti; situated in Romania’s north-eastern part. Roughly 500 locals and citizens had come together to reclaim a farm plot where Chevron has been drilling for shale gas reserves. The company does not hold a permit to drill for shale gas and has generally been prospecting without the prior consent of property owners. Willy Schuster was among the several citizens who were chased by the police and taken to the station for interrogation. Altough Romania’s media has not been allowed to access the area, protesters are using mobile phones to film the police interventions and there have been several reported cases of hospitalisations as a consquence of police brutality.
Talking over the phone to ARC2020 earlier today Willy Schuster said the government had deployed a 2000 man-strong special police force to crush the 500 locals and citizens. “For defending the constitutional right to property we are treated like criminals. Gendarmes dragged us to their prison vans, hit us with the metal sliding doors and in the dark of the truck I was hit in the back by a policeman with his shoes.” Protesters were taken to the police station in town of Vasului followed by long hours of interrogation. “It was like during the times we all thought were long over. There were good and bad policeman tactics and they held me there for six hours. I refused to give my finger prints and I refused to sign their declaration.” Asked what crossed his head as he was interrogated Schuster said: “I just kept thinking of the others, I just kept praying. I concentrated on the hope to shut out fear.“