Representatives of opposition parties, civil society organizations and media outlets held a protest rally against Russian occupation on July 14 near the village Bershueti, Gori Municipality, where the Russian troops seized several hundred meters of farmlands last month.
Around 500 protesters formed a human chain near the newly installed ‘border sign’ and erected a symbolic banner reading “101 Kilometers to the State Border - Roki Tunnel.” They also called on the Government of Georgia to take active steps to end the Russian occupation.
“March of the Georgians”
Later on the same day, around 2000 protesters held the “March of the Georgians” rally on the Aghmashenebeli Avenue in Downtown Tbilisi, demanding the deportation of illegal immigrants, toughening the immigration law, imposing restrictions on granting residence permits to foreigners and banning foreign funding to civil society organizations.
Sandro Bregadze, who served as the Deputy State Minister for Diaspora Issues in 2014 – 2016, was one of the organizers of “the March of the Georgians” rally. A number of ultranationalist groups and organizations joined the March as well. MP Emzar Kvitsiani of the opposition Alliance of Patriots party also appeared at the manifestation.
Bregadze, who leads the Erovnulebi (Georgian for “the nationally minded”) movement, issued an ultimatum “to all illegal immigrants” in his announcement of the rally on June 29, calling on “[illegal] Iranians, Arabs, Africans and others” to leave Georgia before July 14. “We will clean our streets from foreign criminals,” he wrote.
Speaking to Rustavi 2 TV at the demonstration, Bregadze said the rally would be “the beginning of the new national liberation movement,” against “Sorosist, liberast (derogatory terms applied to social liberalism; liberast is a combination of liberal and pederast, slur used for homosexuals) ideology, which is no less of a danger to Georgia, than the Russian occupation.” “The country has to be liberated from the Russian Occupation, as well as from the Sorosist, liberast ideology,” he added.
Counter-Rally in Bershueti
In response to “the March of the Georgians” rally in Tbilisi, about 60 civil society activists from Gori and Tbilisi gathered in the village Bershueti in the evening of July 14.
Organizers said it was to point at where the real threat lies for Georgia. “Exactly when “the March of the Georgians” is being held on the Agmashenebeli Avenue, we want to stand at the occupation line. We want to clearly demonstrate to our compatriots and foreign partners that occupation is our major problem,” reads their Facebook statement.
Participants of the first rally in Bershueti distanced from “the March of the Georgians” as well. “We distance ourselves from any violence, any homophobia; we distance ourselves from xenophobic expressions in this country; we want to have a free country,” one of the organizers of the Bershueti rally, journalist Eliso Kiladze said.
Also on July 14, the U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, Ian Kelly, visited the village of Karapila in Kaspi Municipality, bordering the occupied Akhalgori Municipality, where he denounced Russia’s violation of Georgia’s sovereignty and the ongoing borderization process.