Some 14,000 people took to the streets across Romania to protest Covid restrictions on Tuesday evening, the interior minister said.
Interior Minister Lucian Bode said Wednesday police had handed out 1,300 fines worth about 137,000 euros for violations.
Police are bracing for more protests this week which were initially organized by the nationalist AUR party. The demonstrations have spread to people who are unhappy with new restrictions that came in this week, including shorter shopping hours.
Overall, there were 80 protests on Tuesday, but fewer protesters on the streets on Tuesday night than the previous evening when 31,000 people staged anti-restrictions rallies, the interior minister said.
There was also less violence on Tuesday, a night after after a handful of demonstrators in Bucharest lobbed stones and other objects at police and smashed windows, injuring 12 police officers.
Echoing comments made by other officials including President Klaus Iohannis , Mr Bode said that the legitimate right to protest had been “misunderstood by a minority who resorted to violence.”
Demonstrators shouted “Freedom!” and “We don’t want masks” and carried the Romanian flag as they marched through the capital and other cities.
In the southern city of Craiova, people set fire to a photo of Raed Arafat, who heads the country’s emergency services and threw smoke bombs.
The daily protests which began Sunday have coincided with a spike in Covid-19 cases. On Tuesday, Romania reported some 6,200 new cases and 175 deaths.
In a bid to stem the virus spread, authorities have enforced new measures including an 8 p.m curfew in Bucharest and shorter opening hours in places where cases are more than 7.5 per 1,000 people.
Protesters claim the latest restrictions are unnecessary and an infringement on their personal freedoms.
The minister said he agreed with protests in principle “which is guaranteed in the constitution.” However, he added: “Unfortunately, a majority misunderstood it and instigated and provoked the police.”
Police acted “with calm, professionalism and firmness when the law was broken,” he said.
In other Covid-related news, Romania passed the 2 million mark for vaccine dose given on Tuesday, the RO Vaccinare platform reported.
The vaccine rollout in the country of about 19 million began on December 27. Some 1.05 million people have had both jabs.