To protest government corruption and demand early elections, as many as 100,000 Romanians gathered in Bucharest on August 10 for a mass rally. Many of the protesters were Romanian emigrants who usually live and work abroad.

The expats had organised on social media and travelled home to participate in the rally against the country’s left-wing Social Democratic Party (PSD) and its leader, Liviu Dragnea.

As reported by Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, authorities responded with a brutal show of force when a small group of rioters attempted to storm the government building.

Police used tear gas and water cannon. More than 450 people were injured, including a DW correspondent who was beaten by police. Several gendarmes were also injured. The scale of police violence prompted another, smaller rally in Bucharest on August 11, with protests also held in other Romanian cities.

According to DW, Romanians living abroad are predominantly protesting PSD and its leader, Dragnea, accusing him of corruption and skewing the country’s laws to sort out his own legal troubles.

The PSD and Dragnea came to power after winning an election in December 2016. Since then, both the Cabinet and the lawmakers have attempted to push through legal measures that would ease penalties for graft and abuse of power, presumably to Dragnea’s benefit as well. Romania’s popular anti-graft prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi was fired in July after her agency prosecuted three ministers, several lawmakers and hundreds of lower-ranking state officials for corruption, reported DW.

As for the large number of Romanians living and working in other countries, they travelled to Bucharest to protest the PSD, which in turn is angry at the anti-government rallies being held in western Europe.

According to DW, PSD members and supporters have described expats as “thieves, beggars, and prostitutes” and mercenaries of George Soros working to destabilise Romania.

Meanwhile, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis publicly criticised the “brutal intervention of the police” on August 10.

As for Dragnea, he dismissed calls to resign after the violence on August 11. “I want to assure all Romanians that parliament will not allow anybody to dissolve democracy, suspend individual rights and freedoms, change the outcome of the elections and overthrow order in the Romanian state through violence,” he wrote in an open letter.