|A protester holds a ‘Stop Chevron’ flag at a makeshift camp near the village of Pungesti, Romania, where the US firm wants to drill for shale gas. Photograph: Daniel Mihailescu/AFP/Getty Images|
Luke Dale-Harris and Vlad Ursulean
December 5, 2013
US energy company Chevron has resumed its search for shale gas at a controversial site in north-east Romania after hundreds of riot police forcefully removed protesters from the village of Pungesti.
For more than two months, the village, which is believed to be sitting on large reserves of the valuable natural resource, has been the site of largely peaceful protests. Villagers, many of whom are elderly farmers, have set up camp next to the fields targeted for drilling, spending their nights in makeshift tents and cooking on open fires.
Even as the weather turned and temperatures dropped below zero, they looked set to stick the winter out. “We want the mayor to leave and Chevron to leave. We need courageous men, not to use force, just to show them we are united and we are not afraid,” said Alexandru Focșa, 45, a farmer who has been camping since October.
At 4am on Monday the Romanian gendarmerie [paramilitary police force] moved in to secure the way for Chevron’s trucks. In a scene that resembled a military operation, they occupied the village, blocking all access points with riot police vans and preventing anyone from leaving or entering for over 24 hours. Several villagers were detained and fined for the criminal offence of blocking a public road. Villagers say that anyone leaving their homes was stopped for questioning.