Cornell student Radu Pârvulescu was beaten and arrested following his participation in a peaceful protest in Bucharest against corruption in the Romanian government on Aug. 10.
Pârvulescu, a Ph.D. candidate in the sociology department who is currently doing research in Romania on the evolution of Romanian parliament, reported in a letter he sent to the Canadian Consulate that he was “handcuffed, kicked, insulted, and had [his] head stepped on by a big military boot” when he was taken by police after “calmly staying [his] ground” at the protest.
Though there have been consistent protests in Romania since early 2017, Pârvulescu explained that this specific protest was led by Romanians of the diaspora, people like him who have left Romania to work or study abroad.
“We were called to come back and protest the systemic corruption and mismanagement which has made us leave in the first place,” Pârvulescu told The Sun.
He explained that several Romanian party chiefs have been accused of corruption, nepotism and election fraud. However, in February 2017, the Romanian government passed an emergency decree which “would have changed the criminal code so that a bunch of bribery and influence peddling offenses would no longer be offenses,” he said.
This decree — now repealed and under parliamentary consideration following protests — would have liberated these head party chiefs and allowed them to continue to influence democratic institutions by taking huge bribes, according to Pârvulescu.
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis condemned the manner in which riot police handled the protest and called their actions “brutal,” according to The Washington Post.
Pârvulescu also said that protesting “wasn’t new to him” as he has been involved in protests where police showed force before, as a student at McGill University during the 2012 student protests against tuition hikes in Montreal.
Since being beaten and arrested by police, Pârvulescu said he, along with at least 360 others, has filed common suit against the police force for alleged human rights violations against their rights to association and peaceful assembly.
When he returns to Cornell in late September, Pârvulescu hopes to “continue keeping these things public and visible” and fighting against the centralization of power and resources.
He also sees parallels between the “corruption” in Romania and corruption in the United States, “in terms of police brutality, and more fundamentally in terms of people with money and oligarchs trying to get more and more power … and the various ways in which corruption is legalized,” he said.
Pârvulescu said he wants Cornell students who protest corruption to understand that they are part of a “big global movement.” He also hopes that Americans who do not face repression of peaceful protests like Romanians do can realize “how good they have it and they have to really fight to keep it because it can go away any second.”
“My experience in Romania made me more convinced that it was good that I came to protest. I would do it again in a heartbeat. I have no regrets about it,” he said.