No to Russian Fascism in Georgia, July 23, 2017. Photo: Eana Korbezashvili/Civil.ge
Approximately 2000 activists and supporters of the Movement for Liberty – European Georgia party gathered in Tbilisi at the “No to Russian Fascism in Georgia” rally on July 23.
They marched along the Aghmashenebeli Avenue, the exact same route the anti-immigration and ultranationalist “March of the Georgians” rally took on July 14. The rally also comes a week after Tatia Dolidze, Georgia’s youth delegate to the United Nations in 2016-2017, was allegedly threatened with sexual assault by “the March of the Georgians” organizers.
Speaking to reporters at the rally, Davit Bakradze, one of the leaders of the European Georgia, said the Russian propaganda in Georgia has taken “an alarming form.”
“What we see today: aggression, violence, trampling down on Georgia’s genuine traditions, intolerance to dissenting opinions, xenophobia – is the expression of Russian propaganda in Georgia and all of this is what shuts the door to Georgia’s European future,” Bakradze noted.
He also said the Georgian society has to “rise to its feet and should not let the Russian propaganda win in the name of the Georgian traditions; the Russian propaganda, which, in reality, fights and tramples down on the [very] Georgian traditions.”
“When the government is doing nothing and the Georgian Dream is nurturing the oppressors, it is the Georgian society which should articulate that we, the Georgians, are a dignified, European society,” Bakradze added.
Elene Khoshtaria, European Georgia’s candidate for Tbilisi mayor, was the only one to address the demonstration.
“There won’t be violence in Georgia, there won’t be fascism in Georgia, no matter how the Russian Federation might desire it and no matter how the Government might promote it. Georgia is a peaceful, free, European country,” Khoshtaria said in her brief speech.
“Just like today, when we rallied and said no to fascism in a principled and peaceful manner, we will peacefully get rid of all the problems, we will overcome all the barriers and Georgia will be a free, European country,” Khoshtaria concluded.
Leaders of the Republican Party and the Free Democrats, as well as a number of civic groups, joined the “No to Russian Fascism” rally.
“We cannot let our country slip into hatred, immorality and impoliteness: this is part of the Russian agenda that we are portrayed as uncivilized, uncultured and aggressive people so that we become unacceptable for the civilized world, businesses do not invest anymore and we end up in Russia’s claws,” Shalva Shavgulidze of the Free Democrats told reporters at the rally.
“The country cannot be built on hatred: we will, therefore, stand together with the people who believe that the country cannot be built on hatred, that fascism is not the answer and that they need to be fought back,” noted Khatuna Samnidze of the Republicans.
Despite calls by the Tbilisi City Hall to postpone the demonstration or hold it at a different location, around 50 activists of the “March of the Georgians” movement gathered at the Pasteur Street at one of the junctures leading to the Aghmashenebeli Avenue.
There was heavy police presence in the area: police officers formed cordons to block counter demonstrators from entering the Aghmashenebeli Avenue. Some minor incidents were still reported, however. Eggs, empty bottles and other items were thrown at the European Georgia activists when they got close to the counter protesters, lightly injuring an elderly woman.
Couter protesters trying to cut through the police cordon, July 23, 2017. Photo: Eana Korbezashvili/Civil.ge
Sandro Bregadze, who met the Patriarch right before the scheduled demonstration, said they obeyed to the Patriarch’s calls to cancel the demonstration and urged their supporters not to show up at the rally, but “the Georgians, who are against the butcher Bokeria (Giga Bokeria, one of the leaders of the European Georgia) passing through the Aghmashenebeli Avenue, [still] gathered here.”
“The Patriarch called on them as well (the European Georgia) to cancel the demonstration,” Bregadze added, referring to the refusal of the European Georgia to call off the demonstration, citing their constitutional right to peaceful assembly.