As long as there will be war, as well as systems and organizations that support militarization, murder, and profit-making from conflicts, there will be always movements protesting against them. Nowadays NATO is the most influential military alliance in the world. That’s why wherever a NATO summit will take place there will be people resisting it. Bucharest is not an exception.
In spite of the media intoxication as well as governmental repressions, which started already months before the summit, hundreds of anti-militarists both, Romanian and international, gathered in the capital city, Bucharest.
The mainstream media bombarded the Romanian population with an image of the anti-militaristic activists as careless, terrorists, hooligans and enemies of the common Romanian people, who were only coming to destroy the city. This was all absurd and obviously fabricated as most of the mass media never even bothered to try and find any information from the anti-militarist side.
Also local authorities tried their best to intimidate anyone who might take part in the protests months before the summit. People from different parts of Romania were observed, received phone calls and visits from various law enforcement authorities. While this is common practice, recently law enforcement authorities intensified the repression to an extreme.
At the same time people from other countries were repressed when trying to cross the Romanian border. Many of them were denied entry to Romania without being given any legal reason. In the days before the summit many activists were stopped and harassed by police, but this heavy police presence also affected regular citizens in many ways.
The peek of the repression took place on the 2nd of April 2008 when the jandarmerie (special forces) brutally stormed the space which activists were using for accommodation, gathering and events. This legally rented space was raided without warning. This aggression was without any legal backing. The jandarms behaved brutally both physically (kicking, hitting and using gas) and mentally (shouting homophobic, xenophobic and racist insults). Most of the people were hit, but several were badly injured. This was a desperate, but unsuccessful attempt on behalf of the Romanian state to stop the protest activities.
What happened after was a combination of, on the one side, a reaction from the movement, and on the other, from the mainstream media which recognized the abuse of power and force. The anti-militarists remaining free initiated spontaneous anti-repression marches and pickets in front of police stations together with several human rights organizations and lawyers. In many countries, solidarity actions took place, like demonstrations in front of Romanian embassies. Facing this kind of reaction, Romanian state was forced to weaken their stance. Ten hours later all activists had been released and the activists’ space was reclaimed.
Even if full trust in the real intentions of the mass media has not been restored, it is clear that at that moment they took a serious step towards presenting the real intentions of the international anti-militarist movement more accurately.
It is important to stress that the actions and protests in Bucharest had both local and international participants, as militarism is not only a local problem. This movement has no masters or leaders, so no single person or group can be blamed or take credit for organizing the protests. In particular, it is important to emphasize that the attention of the international movement will focus on the developments in Romania after the summit. Romanian authorities should know that any further attempts of repression against Romanian anti-militarists will not be left without a strong reaction from the international community. Solidarity strengthened because of our experiences in Bucharest and will be built upon.
To conclude, despite massive repression as anti-militarist activists managed to conduct a number of public events and recognized that many inhabitants of Bucharest sympathized with anti-militarist ideas as they were greeting us at every step. For us this is a clear sign that there is no consensus within the Romanian society on topics like NATO, militarism or even state interventions in social relations. In fact many people were negative or at least critical about it. One could ask: if so many Romanian people are critical, why did they not go on the streets to express their opinions? The answer is clear: The state created an atmosphere of fear and terror which reminds Romanian citizens of the times before December 1989.
We have shown in Bucharest that no matter how restrictive the repressions are, it will never stop our resistance.
They can break our bones, but not our ideas!
Anti-militarists protests will continue!