By Stefan J. Bos
Riot police scuffled with anti-government protesters in Romania's capital Bucharest on Friday. Officers fired water cannon and tear gas. Amid the turmoil, many sustained injuries, while others were overcome by tear gas fired by security forces.
Authorities later said hundreds of people needed medical treatment, both protesters and police officers. Three journalists said they were also attacked by police.
Austria's public broadcaster ORF said Saturday a cameraman covering the protest was hit by police with truncheons, while the presenter with him was shoved up against a wall. A journalist filming the rally for Romania's Hotnews online news site said he was kicked and attacked by riot police.
However, some individuals lobbed rocks, bottles and smoke bombs at security forces. Soccer hooligans allegedly infiltrated the mostly peaceful protest and were among those committing acts of violence.
The clashes broke out after tens of thousands of Romanians joined a rally organized by expatriates Friday, urging the left-wing government to resign and call an early election. Thousands protested in other cities.
Expats supporting the event in Bucharest, some of whom drove across Europe to attend, said they were angry at how Romania is being governed.
Critics say the European Union nation has lost ground in fighting corruption since the ruling Social Democratic Party assumed power in 2016.
About 3 million Romanians live abroad, and some say they left because of corruption, low wages and a lack of opportunities.
Hundreds of thousands of Romanians have signed a petition demanding a law that would ban people indicted for corruption and other offenses from political office.
But it's unlikely to pass since the Social Democrats and their allies have a majority in Parliament.
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, a critic of the left-wing government, has condemned what he called "the brutal intervention of riot police."
Police appeared to defend their actions saying they had been ordered by authorities to evacuate Victory Square late Friday. They also said that at least 11 riot police, were taken to hospitals. Officials say they are pursuing charges against eight people.
Despite the bloodshed, protesters have pledged to return to the streets.