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Police Break up Rally, Opposition Vows to Keep Protesting
/ 7 Nov.'07 / 10:10
Civil Georgia

Georgian police broke up protest rally outside the Parliament in early hours of November 7. Reports say, several opposition activists, including Giorgi Khaindrava of the Equality Institute were arrested. Officials said they were arrested for “disobeying police orders.”

TV stations reported that the police prevented them from filming the scuffle between protesters and the police and the Imedi TV said police seized their crew’s TV camera. Some of the footage which was aired by the television stations showed police evicting a small group of protesters, including at least dozen of hunger strikes, from the area in front of the parliament.  

Georgian Public Defender Sozar Subari has already condemned the incident as illegal. 

“I want to declare that the right of gathering and manifestations is guaranteed by the constitution of Georgia and nobody has the right to violate it,” Subari told reporters on November 7. “When the authorities are against the freedom of manifestations and gatherings, it only indicates about the lack of democracy in the country.”

Meanwhile, Gigi Ugulava, the mayor of Tbilisi, said at a news briefing on November 7 that Tbilisi will never become “a town of tents” and the authorities made “a timely decision” in this regard.   

The opposition leaders announced yesterday that they were planning to set up, what they called, “a town of tents” in reference of their plans to continue protests unless their demands are not met. 

“It is legitimate desire of each of our citizen that Tbilisi never becomes a town of tent,” Ugulava said, “After November 2 there was no legal ground for blocking the Rustaveli Avenue. Already yesterday the lack of people [at the protest rally] enabled us to open traffic movement.”

He also stressed that the Georgian constitution guarantees the right of gathering and the freedom expression, adding that “each citizen can express his protest on the pavement. No permission is needed for it.” 

“People are tired of this permanent experiments offered by [tycoon Badri] Patarkatsishvili and [ex-defense minister Irakli] Okruashvili. I believe that our decision reflects the interests of our citizens to return the city to its normal life,” Ugulava added.

Meanwhile, police said that the demonstration was not broke up. “We have resumed traffic on the Tbilisi's main thoroughfare [Rustaveli Avenue], because we have been receiving numerous requests from citizens to unblock the road,” Giorgi Grigalashvili, chief of the Georgian patrol police, said.

“It was an attempt [by the police] to stage destabilization,” Vice-Speaker of the Parliament, Mikheil Machavariani, said. “When the opposition leaders decided to set up tents, which are not permitted by the law, and when they decided to further aggravate tensions, the authorities took a decision envisaged by the law. Traffic [on Rustaveli Avenue] has been resumed, protesters can keep protesting in front of Parliament without blocking the road.”

At the moment several hundred protesters are gathered outside the Parliament. They are concentrated on a small square in front of the parliament and they are sealed off by the police cordon preventing protesters from blocking the road.

Opposition leaders have called on population to gather outside the parliament at 2 pm to resume protest rallies.

"We call on everybody to come to the Parliament and let's end with these authorities," MP Koka Guntsadze of the Movement for United Georgia, said.

"If someone thinks that these weaklings [referring to the authorities] will frighten us, they are mistaken," MP Zviad Dzidziguri, leader of the Conservative party said, "nobody will go away and tents will be set up".

“Police disbanded peaceful hunger strikers in a Bolshevik-style on November 7 – an anniversary of Russia’s [1917] Bolshevik Revolution,” Salome Zourabichvili, ex-foreign minister and leader of opposition Georgia’s Way party said.

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