|Police block main road leading to the Interior Ministry. Protesters tried to use a by-pass road, which lies through a railway line and which was also sealed off by the riot police. Photo: InterPressNews>|
Several policemen and protesters were injured in a clash on May 6 as a group of opposition activists and leaders tried to make their way towards the Interior Ministry building where police forces were marking newly proclaimed Day of Police with a parade.
Opposition groups, including Levan Gachechiladze’s public movement Defend Georgia; National Council (Conservative Party, Party of People and Movement for Fair Georgia); Nino Burjanadze’s Democratic Movement-United Georgia, announced on May 3 about the plans to hold the protest rally against the government’s decision to proclaim May 6 as the Police Day.
The first reason, cited by them, was that May 6 is celebrated as St. George’s Day and the second reason, they said, was that May 6 also marks one year anniversary of a confrontation that took place at Tbilisi police headquarters in which dozens of protesters were injured, including several opposition leaders, when the police fired projectiles from less-lethal launchers.
The Interior Ministry announced on May 5 that roads leading to the Interior Ministry building in Tbilisi suburb would be closed in connection to the police forces’ parade.
On May 6, when the event outside of the Interior Ministry was ongoing in presence of President Saakashvili, other senior officials and invited foreign diplomats, several hundred of opposition activists marched in direction of the ministry, but the roads were sealed off by the riot police.
The clash erupted when the protesters tried to make their way through riot police cordon on a by-pass road, which lies through a railway line.
Some protesters were seen in the TV footage throwing stones to the policemen. In one TV footage a senior member of opposition Conservative Party, Bidzina Gujabidze, is seen tossing a stone in direction to the riot police.
At least three protesters were hospitalized. Interior Ministry official said several policemen were hit by stones, but injuries were not serious.
Although decision to declare May 6 as the police day met protest across the broad range of opposition parties, many of them refused to join the protest rally organized by some opposition groups.
Alliance for Georgia, uniting four opposition parties, which refused to join the rally, said in a statement on May 5, that the authorities’ decision was “irresponsible and provocative”, but it also called on “everyone not to yield to this provocation and to firmly protect the peaceful way, which will lead us to change of the government through elections.”
Nino Burjanadze’s party, Democratic Movement-United Georgia, which was one of the organizers of the May 6 protest rally, said in a statement that “private police” of Vano Merabishvili, the interior minister, and President Saakashvili “staged a bloody St. George’s Day”
“With today’s [police] parade, the authorities confirmed once again that the police and the army are means of political pressure,” Burjanadze’s party said in the statement.