On December 2nd (right after The Romanian National Day), at 4 a.m., more than 40 Police cars, togetheter with Chevron trucks gathered in Vaslui county, moving to Pungești village. Meanwhile, Gendarmerie forces were sent from Bacău city to surround the protesters’ camp, which had been established last month. The protesters (around 100 people, including villagers and non-local activists) lined up on the side of the road near Chevron’s property and bound themselves with a rope.
Photo Credits: Vrn.ro
The Police blocked any access to that camp with security fences and anyone who tried to get close was pushed back. The whole area was surrounded by the Gendarmerie and the access was denied for journalists. George Epurescu, a researcher at the National Institute for Laser, Plasma and Radiation Physics in Bucharest, a supporter of the protesters, was there and he provided us with information. According to him and several villagers who managed to call their lawyers, the leaders of this protest were arrested. Zâna Domintean, one of the activists, was in the village, in front of a local shop, and she was thrown in a police vehicle; she fought them and broke one of the police car windows.
Gendarmerie representatives stated that the protesters had illegally blocked the main road which, according to Epurescu, is a lie. The protesters were on the side of the road, the traffic was unimpaired. The protesters were also non-violent. They were only protesting against the usurpation of the land on which Chevron is trying to start the explorations for shale gas. This land was taken in leasing by Chevron from the mayor of the village. The land got into his possession through illegal exchange made between the village and another village, where the mayor’s wife owned a piece of land. The locals are claiming that the exchange was made eschewing proper regulations.
In Pungești village, the Gendarmerie had installed a state of emergency. Local children were stopped on their way to school, as the road connecting the village to nearby towns was blocked by police forces. Any gathering of more than 3 people was dissolved by the authorities. Some villagers were chased in the woods by policemen, who are said to have used violence against them. Many protesters were taken to the Central Police Station in Vaslui city, being refused the right to contact press or lawyers.
Photo Credits: Daniel Mihăilescu, AFP
Chevron representatives said issued a press statement, officially confirming the company has started the exploration procedures for shale gas. Romanian Gendarmerie has also issued a statement, according to which all measures were meant to protect the community and to establish the proper conditions for Chevron to pursue its activity.
Several activists and journalists were able to reach the protesters’ camp in Pungesti last night, where only few people were left after the police interventions. As they were not allowed access to the main road to the village, they had to crawl in the fields for two hours, in order to reach the camp. “You would not believe what is happening here,” said one of the activists during a phone call. “A chain of gendarmes is surrounding the entire area, private security forces all over, guarding Chevron trucks and workers. It seems like a battlefield.”
On December 3rd, gendarmes allowed journalists to reach the protesters’ camp under escort, for 30 minutes only.