Due to the events in Timișoara, on 21 December 1989, Nicolae Ceaușescu scheduled a people assembly, inviting workers from the factories and plants in Bucharest to take part. At 12 pm, approximately 100,000 people with placards condemning the protests in Timișoara and supporting the dictator and the Romanian Communist Party were listening to Ceaușescu. He announced his decision to increase the minimum wage by an insignificant amount, and to add a little extra to child benefits. He also thanked the organisers of the demonstration.
A representative from the workers gave a speech in front of the gathering of people, expressing the workers' solidarity and approving Ceaușescu's attitude regarding the Timișoara protests.
The final "people assembly"
Suddenly, for the first time in 25 years, a roar was heard from the crowd. Ceaușescu was stunned and didn't understand what was happening. He said "Hello!" a few times, and during this time the TV transmission went off air.
Ceaușescu told the demonstrators: "Comrades, take your seats calmly", but the only reaction from the public was booing. The demonstrators from the Athenaeum began to leave the square. The general feeling was one of panic.
The supposed gathering to support President Nicolae Ceaușescu turned into a serious protest, and some of the participants regrouped in several places in the central part of the capital. Over 150 protesters were detained between 1:30 pm and 2 pm. The first victim of the revolution in Bucharest was shot down in front of Negoiu Hotel. Using a revolver, a major of the militia killed a demonstrator. At around 2:50 pm, armoured personnel carriers and military personnel from the Ministry of National Defence arrived at University Square, but the first clear order of repression came from the Minister of Defence, General Vasile Milea, at 4:37 pm. He ordered that the demonstrators from Romană Square, Intercontinental Hotel and Unirii Square be dispersed.
Approximately 200 people gathered, kneeled and started saying prayers at 3 pm in University Square. Moments of silence were also being marked for the victims in Timișoara. Revolutionaries Dumitru Dincă and Dan Iosif remembered the creation of a group called the United Workers Front in those first few hours of protest at University Square.
At around 4:30 pm, an incident occurred that would add to the tension in the atmosphere. A military lorry driver was hit on the head with a brick thrown by a citizen. The driver, a member of the military, lost consciousness and control over the vehicle which continued moving and caused casualties both among the demonstrators and the deployed military personnel, with seven dead and eight injured. At 5 pm, shots were fired on the demonstrators from buildings, tanks and from inside their ranks.
Intercontinental Hotel barricade
At around 6:20 pm, the demonstrators built a barricade made of vehicles, metal trucks and furniture from the Dunărea (Danube) restaurant. Dan Iosif, Romeo Raicu and Radu Silaghi advised the crowds not to go home. Dumitru Dincă and Dan Iosif were the ones who stood up as leaders. It was they who gave inspiring speeches to the crowds.
"The Intercontinental Hotel barricade and the balcony of the Timișoara Opera House were and continue to be the supreme symbols of the Romanian Revolution of 1989"
Mihail M. Andreescu, Ion Bucur "Revoluţia Română în Bucureşti" [The Romanian Revolution in Bucharest]
The charge against the barricade took place between 11:30 pm and midnight. Armoured personnel carriers charged the demonstrators in the vicinity of the Dunărea restaurant. Tear gas grenades were used and barricade trucks were set on fire. Automatic fire comes down at 11:50 pm and USLA (Special Anti-Terrorist Combat Unit) fighters are brought in. At midnight, 800 people were left behind the barricade, and the military personnel attempted to break the barricade with armoured personnel carriers. Another tank drove through the barricade, wounding more people. The revolutionaries were being fired on from four tanks. Four tanks, two coming from Magheru Boulevard, one from Ciclop and one from the Central House of the Army, broke the blockade. Patriotic guards began attacking the demonstrators. According to data from the Military Prosecution Office, 148 people were dead or wounded in the gunshots. In the area between Intercontinental and Dalles Hall, 48 people died, of which 8 were hit by cars, 39 were shot and one person was beaten to death.
At around 7 am, demonstrators began to gather again in University Square. The groups that had fought during the night had managed to mobilise large groups of protesters. In Bucharest's industrial platforms, rows of workers came together and left for the city centre. The main groups belonged to the 23 August, Militari, Grivița, Berceni, Pipera, Mecanica Fina and Pantelimon industrial areas. The groups of demonstrators were heading towards downtown Bucharest and shouting: "Down with the Dictator!", "Down with the Executioner", "Down with Ceaușescu!", "We will die and we will be free!", "We are the people!", "Freedom, justice!" and so on.
Ceaușescu leaves the capital
The Dictator appeared in front of the crowd for the last time on 22 December. He tried to address the crowd from the balcony of the Central Committee.
At 12:06 pm, the Ceaușescus fled by helicopter from the Central Committee building, along with three henchmen and two bodyguards. After their departure, demonstrators entered the Central Committee and a revolutionary made his first appearance on the balcony, waving a flag from which the coat of arms of the Socialist Republic of Romania had been cut out.
Editor contributor — Lina Vdovîi
Editor contributor — Alina Conţeanu
Editor contributor — Monica Paula Coman
Editor contributor — George Gurescu
Editor arhive — Mihai Ciobanu
Operator film 16 mm — Carmen Draghici
Documentare foto — Irina Bartolomeu
Editor foto/video — Silviu Panaite
Coordonator de proiect — Dorian Stoica