Tens of thousands of protesters gathered on May 26 – the Georgia’s Independence Day and 48th day of street protests demanding President Saakashvili’s resignation.
Protesters packed the national stadium in Tbilisi, which has a capacity of up to 60,000; the rally was about the size of the one held on the first day of protests on April 9.
The culmination of the event came when Giorgi Gachechiladze, a singer and an activist who has turned into an informal leader of protests through its reality TV show Cell No. 5, entered the stadium together with supporters. For past week he has been campaigning in the western Georgia in what he called was “march on Tbilisi.”
“What we see here amounts to the end of the evil, which has reigned in Georgia for past five years,” Giorgi Gachechiladze told the rally on the stadium.
Politicians took the stage after that.
“It is the first May 26, which is organized by people and which is being held without participation of President Saakashvili, who soon will not be the president of this country,” Nino Burjanadze, leader of Democratic Movement-United Georgia, told the protesters and added: “You have frightened those, who wanted to frighten us. You have proved to the President, that he will be unable to frighten and stop Georgia.”
She reiterated her position that dialogue with the authorities was possible “only on one issue – President Saakashvili’s resignation.”
“I call on the world, look at this people and understand once and forever that this people deserves independence, democracy, freedom and this people will return it,” she said. “We will not step back, we will struggle for victory. We know that each day of Saakashvili’s presence in power poses a danger to the country. Our country can survive only if Saakashvili resigns. Then further steps should be taken to ensure that those who will come into power in the future do not appear in the same situation. I do not think that any force, which has seen your force, will ever manage to make such mistakes that will trigger the nation’s anger. You will not allow it happen.”
Irakli Alasania, leader of Alliance for Georgia, told the rally that from now on all the steps would be dictated “not only by heart, but also by mind.”
“Today we have showed to our people, our authorities and the world that we will stand together unless the peaceful change of the authorities… unless we have right for free elections,” he said.
Davit Berdzenishvili of the Republican Party, part of Alliance for Georgia, told the rally that for creating proper election environment “machinery of repressions and lie” should be dismantled. “We will not live in [Interior Minister] Vano Merabishvili’s Georgia,” he said.
“We will complete this struggle with resignation of Saakashvili,” Davit Gamkrelidze, leader of New Rights Party, part of Alliance for Georgia, said at the rally. “Now it is not a time for getting tired and for taking a pause; we should bring our deed to the end. And I promise that each of us, together with you, will accomplish this deed in nearest days and will celebrate our victory together.”
Zviad Dzidziguri of the Conservative Party told the rally: “We sometimes hear an opinion that we have been struggling for so long and what is the result? But we have the result; just look to each other and you will see that Georgia is ours.”
After the politicians’ speeches Giorgi Gachechiladze took the stage again and called on the protesters to move towards the Holy Trinity Cathedral to attend prayer of Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Ilia II. Originally opposition planned to march towards the Rustaveli Avenue.
“We have no government, but we have a spiritual father, our Patriarch Ilia II. We, the Georgian population, entire people, will now march towards the Holly Trinity Cathedral and our Patriarch will receive us and tell us what we should do afterwards,” he told the protesters.