Third night of anti-government protests in Romania

Romanian police scuffle with protesters during an anti-government protest in Bucharest on Friday

Romanian police scuffle with protesters during an anti-government protest in Bucharest on Friday

Thousands of Romanians rallied for a third day running on Sunday against the Social Democrat government in anti-corruption protests, demanding Prime Minister Viorica Dancila step down.

Thousands of people also joined demonstrations in other main Romanian cities, including Cluj in the northwest, central Sibiu and Timisoara in the west.

Bucharest, the nations capital, teemed with European Union and Romanian flags accompanied by the sound of banging drums and chanting slogans as protesters filled the streets.

Police came in for criticism after they used water cannon and tear gas on Friday to disperse protesters as tens of thousands rallied to call on the left-wing government to resign. Hundreds of people including many Romanians who work in western Europe and police officers needed medical attention. Protesters blew vuvuzelas and shone the words "Down with the government" on the government offices.

Earlier Saturday, Romanian riot police defended their use of force at the protest Friday night in which 70 people, including 11 riot police, had to be taken to the hospital. "They also chanted 'Thieves, thieves, ' waving Romanian, U.S., North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and European Union flags". "Video footage posted on social media show police beating non-violent protesters holding their hands up".

Eugene, a 62-year-old construction worker, traveled especially to Bucharest on Friday to protest at what he said was "endemic corruption".

Rallies have been repeatedly held since the leftist government took power in early 2017 and attempted to roll back corruption protections. Some people lobbed rocks, bottles and smoke bombs at riot police.

There were accusations that soccer hooligans had infiltrated the largely peaceful protest and deliberately committed acts of violence.

"We want to return to Romania, but there's too much corruption and the health care is dismal", she told The Associated Press.

President Klaus Iohannis, an opponent of the Socialist Democrat-led government and a vocal critic of its corruption policy, criticised the police reaction as "brutal".

Three journalists said they were also subjected to violence from the police.

Austrian public broadcaster ORF said Saturday that one of its cameramen had been beaten by police while a TV presenter was shoved up against a wall.

Around 150,000 protesters gathered in Bucharest after the Social Democrats took power previous year following the government passing a decree to decriminalise several corruption offences.

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