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Tbilisi Protests Wrap up, Get Ready for 2020 Polls

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On September 20, the three months long Tbilisi protests outside the Parliament building that have subsided during the summer lull, marked the end by large-scale “together against the one” rally. The organizers moved to a new action plan, which aims at mobilizing the public for the 2020 parliamentary elections against the ruling Georgian Dream party.

Civic activists, politicians and ordinary Georgian citizens, protested for 93rd day on Tbilisi’s main thoroughfare. Shota Dighmelashvili, one of the protest leaders read out a manifestation: “We are the free citizens of free Georgia…whose fair, peaceful protest continues for already three months. And when we are all standing at the country’s service, we are changing the country to better.”

The statement also reads that “a shameful crime committed by the government” on June 20, has united diverse people, whereas the state responded to “the protest of the people devoted to the homeland with violence.”

“Today, we have gathered here to tell Bidzina Ivanishvili that you had a chance to respond to public demand and take responsibility over your mistakes, but you have openly confronted the public will instead,” it further reads.

The protesters denounced promotion of then Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia, “who was guilty before people,” and added that “oligarchic, non-formal governance” is unacceptable for them.

Background

A group of Georgian opposition and civic activists gathered in front of the Parliament of Georgia on June 20, condemning the Russian delegation’s presence at a session of the Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy in the parliament’s plenary chamber earlier that day, during which Russian Orthodox Communist MP Sergei Gavrilov addressed the session in Russian from Parliament Speaker’s.

Tensions mounted around 10pm Tbilisi time that night, when part of the protestors tried to break through the first cordon of the police, but were pushed back by the riot police. Situation remained tense overnight.

240 people, including 80 police officers and over 30 journalists have been treated for injuries. Many severe injuries to civilians occurred later during the night after the police dispersed protestors through massive use of tear gas and rubber bullets, including so called “less-lethal” rounds.

Investigation into the fact of exceeding official powers by law enforcement officers was launched on June 24. The Interior Ministry announced later that day that ten law enforcers, who took part in the clash on Rustaveli Avenue, were suspended from their official duties pending inquest, several have been charged for exceeding official powers.

For over three months, since June 20, protest rallies continued on Rustaveli Avenue demanding then Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia’s resignation. However, meanwhile Gakharia was tapped new Prime Minister, following Mamuka Bakhtadze’s resignation in early September.

The release of the protesters who were detained on the night of June 20 and detention of those law enforcers who exceeded their duties during the dispersal, as well as holding of 2020 parliamentary elections through proportional party-lists, were also among the major demands of Tbilisi protests.

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This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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