Thousands of Romanians marched angrily through Bucharest for the second straight day Friday to protest government-announced price increases.
About 2,000 workers of the Alfa trade union rallied in front of Parliament. An additional 3,000 protesters marched from central University Square to government headquarters, chanting demands that President Ion Iliescu resign.The crowds dispersed peacefully later in the evening.
The protesters first assembled Thursday evening, after the government lifted price controls, doubling or tripling the cost of some foods and other consumer items. Rents, energy and certain basic food items were excluded from the price hikes.
Demonstrators blocked traffic on Nicolae Balcescu boulevard, a main thoroughfare. They waved flags and banners protesting the price rises, and shouted "Down with Iliescu!"
Officials of Alfa, an umbrella organization of unions from heavy industries, also demanded that the government privatize more than the 30 percent of state-owned companies it plans to sell as part of its reform package.
The government said Friday it will compensate pensioners, handicapped people and some groups of workers to help ease the price increase shock.
It also announced it would double the interest rates offered on savings by banks and approved plans to open up 100 state-owned firms to foreign capital.
Gabriel Andreescu, a leading opposition figure, expressed concern that the government might respond with force if demonstrations continued.
But special police units, brought downtown Thursday, kept out of sight behind the nearby Senate building on Friday.