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Opposition Resorts to Railway Blocking
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 27 May.'09 / 03:09

Source: Civil.Ge

Hundreds of opposition activists and supporters were blocking railway lines at the Tbilisi central railway station for about three hours, the tactic employed for the first time by the opposition since the launch of protests on April 9.

Late on May 27 protesters led by Nino Burjanadze, leader of Democratic Movement-United Georgia, Davit Gamkrelidze, leader of New Rights, part of Alliance of Georgia; Kakha Kukava, co-leader of the Conservatives Party; Salome Zourabichvili, leader of Georgia’s Way and Eka Beselia of the Movement for United Georgia marched from the protest venue outside the Parliament towards the railway station.

Angry protesters rushed on the rail tracks in front of the passenger train to prevent it from departing. Some opposition politicians present there, including Bidzina Gujabidze of the Conservative Party, tried in vain to convince protesters to allow the passenger train to leave the station and to instead focus on blocking movement of cargo trains. At one point the train engines started and the train moved a little bit but it had to stop again as it triggered angry reaction of protesters who were determined not to leave the rail track.

The passenger train, which was scheduled to depart for Batumi at 10:30pm local time, failed to do so as a result of the blocking and part of passengers has returned tickets.

“[Picketing] will continue until it is necessary. We do not speak about exact dates,” Burjanadze said. “The rallies will be dynamic. There will be rallies, which may continue for several hours, nights or days.”

Uniformed police were not visible and no one prevented protesters from blocking the railway lines.

Irakli Alasania, leader of Alliance for Georgia, however, said that there were actions in which he would not take part, including in blocking highways and railways. He, however, said his team would act jointly with other opposition leaders in other forms of protests. The National Forum party is also absent; it said on May 25 that it would now focus on campaigning in the provinces.

"The people were demanding actions from us and we had to choose between violence or active peaceful measures and we made a choice in favor of the latter, as violence is not something we want," Davit Gamkrelidze, leader of New Rights Party, said while sitting on the rail track before the picketing ended.

Few hours before the blocking of the railway, the opposition leaders tried hard to allay fears of protesters who were speculating that the opposition was going to step back from its drive to force President Saakashvili to resign. Emotions ran high among many protesters especially after the large scale rally on the national stadium on May 26.

It was originally planned by the opposition to march towards the Parliament After the rally on the stadium, but a singer and an activist, Giorgi Gachechiladze, who had a lead role in the May 26 protest events called on the protesters on the stadium to move towards the Holy Trinity Cathedral and to attend a prayer of an influential head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ilia II.

After the opposition leaders and thousands of protesters arrived in the Cathedral, Tbilisi Mayor, Gigi Ugulava, a close ally of President Saakashvili, accompanied by some other officials from the ruling party also came to the Church where a brief meeting with Giorgi Gachechiladze took place. These developments were accompanied by a statement by the Patriarch Ilia II, who hinted that the opposition should put aside demanding the President’s resignation.

These developments immediately triggered speculation among many protesters that the opposition was preparing a ground for a face-saving retreat, causing anger of many protesters and on the other hand triggering some opposition leaders to undertake some sort of measures that would have satisfied the most radical part of protesters.

Another option that were under consideration during a brief discussion of some opposition leaders prior taking the decision was blocking key highway in outskirts of Tbilisi leading to the eastern part of the country and also linking the capital city with its airport.

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