Protesters were able to freely march towards the parliament building after police cordon blocking the capital city’s main thoroughfare was removed.
The police cordon was removed shortly after the military parade on the Rustaveli Avenue to mark the Independence Day was over. It finished at the time when the marching opposition supporters approached the Rustaveli Avenue.
Unlike previous years the entire ceremony marking the Independence Day was low profile and lasted only about 40 minutes, which included a small-scale military parade and an address by visiting Polish President Lech Kaczynski. Surprisingly President Saakashvili did not make any comprehensive speech at the ceremony and instead made only brief remarks.
“I salute thousands of Georgian soldiers, thousands of Georgia reservists, who are presently protecting peace in Georgia and Georgia’s future, each of us and our future generations and I want to promise entire Georgia that our country, despite attacks, despite pressure will become united, Georgia will return its territories and it will be unified to make happy all our brothers, all those ethnic groups, who live in Georgia, because Georgia belongs to the representatives of all ethnicities. Peace will come in Georgia; unity will be established in Georgia. I congratulate you on the Day of Independence; I congratulate you on the day of freedom,” Saakashvili said.
“I want to congratulate you on the recent elections,” the Polish President said in his address. “There always exist certain shortcomings but we cannot say that these elections were not free… Georgia should be a NATO member state and I want to assure you of our solidarity in this affair.”
The military parade featured over 2,000 servicemen as well as 152mm self-propelled auto-loading gun DANAs and armored military vehicle KOBRAs.
Before the march thousands of opposition supporters gathered outside the Sport Palace – few kilometers away from the Rustaveli Avenue.
“We will continue struggle to dismantle this violent government and the parliament. This may be a long-term battle, but it will be accomplished with our victory,” Levan Gachechiladze, co-leader of the nine-party opposition bloc, told supporters at the rally which was held outside the Sport Palace this morning before the march.
Davit Gamkrelidze, the leader of New Rights Party – part of the nine-party bloc – called on all opposition parties to sign a joint memorandum undertaking commitment to boycott the new parliament, which the opposition says illegitimate as it was elected through ballot fraud.
The Labor Party leader, Shalva Natelashvili, whose party also cleared the 5% threshold, told protesters at the rally that his party was joining the memorandum. “We are again together and this unity will help us to put an end to the Saakashvili’s regime,” Natelashvili told the rally.
The Christian-Democratic Party, which has also cleared the 5% threshold, has not yet signed the memorandum.
The protest rally was aired live by the Tbilisi-based Kavkasia TV.
In his address to supporters Levan Gachechiladze slammed the western support of the Saakashvili administration and in particularly attacked the U.S. position.
“Georgia can not be smashed down. I do not care what the Americans think and I do not care what the Europeans think. We should build the Georgian state. I want to tell you that our struggle, the struggle of the Georgian people is not simply against the Saakashvili regime; it is about the struggle against the world geopolitics, this is struggle against the American interests. That is why this struggle is difficult… We would have changed this government if elections were free and fair,” Gachechiladze said. “Free and fair elections in Georgia would have changed the geopolitics in the former Soviet Union as well, because it would have been an attempt to build a free country by free people and not under the instructions of Americans.”