BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — More than 1,000 people gathered outside Romania's government offices Wednesday to protest a move by lawmakers to pardon acts of corruption.
Hundreds of demonstrators waved Romanian, NATO, European Union and U.S. flags, yelling: "We have to defend the country from thieves!" As numbers grew, the crowd blocked Victory Square, where the government offices are. There were smaller protests in the cities if Constanta, Cluj, Sibiu and Brasov.
At one point, protesters in Bucharest sang the national anthem "Wake up, Romanian!" turning on the lights on their mobile phones to accompany the singing.
They protested shortly after a parliamentary legal committee approved a draft law that would grant amnesty to people convicted of bribery and influence peddling. The move is a preliminary step before a full parliamentary vote.
Lawmakers from the ruling Social Democratic Party dominate the committee. However, Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu, a Social Democrat, said he did not support the proposed changes.
President Klaus Iohannis, who is not a member of any party, said he was "unpleasantly surprised" by the vote.
Wednesday's protest followed weeks of anti-graft protests earlier this year.
Hundreds of thousands protested this winter after the government in January moved to decriminalize official misconduct. The government eventually scrapped the ordinance.