United National Movement (UNM) will hold a protest rally on April 19 outside the building previously housing the Parliament on Tbilisi's main thoroughfare, Rustaveli Avenue.
The rally, which is scheduled to start at 4pm local time, was first announced by UNM's secretary general and former PM Vano Merabishvili in late February as a gathering in defense for Georgia's pro-western foreign policy; since then the Parliament adopted bipartisan resolution reaffirming country's foreign policy course. UNM, however, says that in practice policies of PM Ivanishvili's government are contrary to western aspirations and in recent days UNM leaders are often citing PM's remarks on August war.
UNM lawmakers Giorgi Gabashvili said that the April 19 rally would also mark "launch of a struggle with new energy for those values, which unite many of our citizens."
He said that the government had "illogically panic" reaction to the planned rally; he said it would be a peaceful gathering, which would peacefully disperse in few hours on the same day. He accused the police of "threatening" UNM activists and supporters in the provinces warning them against going to Tbilisi to attend the rally.
The Interior Ministry denied allegations as "false and absurd, which aim at discrediting police."
It said in the statement that ministry's representatives held a meeting with Tbilisi municipality officials and organizers of the rally on April 17 in order to coordinate measures for securing public order and safety during the rally.
The Interior Ministry said that traffic would be closed on the Rustaveli Avenue and nearby streets, as well as on Freedom Square and Rose Square from 12:00 local time till the end of the rally on April 19.
Tbilisi mayor’s office says closing traffic on such a wide area and doing it four hours before the start of the rally is unnecessary.
The Interior Ministry also said that parking lots were allotted specifically for cars of rally participants at several locations close to the venue of the rally.
"The goal of the Interior Ministry is to secure holding of United National Movement's rally peacefully and preventing violation of public order," it said in the statement on April 18.
Ahead of the planned rally, UNM was hit with number of controversies, involving allegations voiced against Merabishvili purportedly by his former subordinate and senior interior ministry official Data Akhalaia, as well as release of previously secret President's spending records. UNM leaders responded that these were government-orchestrated efforts to discredit opposition leaders, which showed the authorities' "hysteria and panic" ahead of the UNM's rally.
Georgian Dream lawmaker Tina Khidasheli said on April 18, that holding of the rally under the banner of pro-western policy course amounted to "knocking at wide open door."
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