A protest rally was held in Tbilisi on 17 October demanding that Mayor Kakha Kaladze take political responsibility and resign over the death of a 13-year-old girl, Marita Meparishvili. Meparishvili died after being electrocuted alongside two friends in a fountain in central Tbilisi’s newly-renovated Vake Park.
The three teenagers were electrocuted on 13 October after they attempted to retrieve their ball which had fallen into the fountain. Meparishvili died after being taken to the hospital. Her two friends were discharged from clinics after being treated for their injuries.
An investigation into the matter is being carried out under Article 240 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, which refers to breaches in construction regulations. It carries a possible prison sentence of 4-7 years.
Civil activists, politicians, and ordinary citizens gathered in front of Tbilisi City Hall at 09:00 A.M. this morning to demand the resignation of Mayor Kaladze. They also organized a so-called corridor of shame in front of the building.
Participants of the protest held banners that read: “Corruption Kills,” “Corruption-filled City,” and “What is happening at other fountains?” “Corrupt Mayor,” “Your City is Killing You,” “Should we ban fountains too?” “Which one of you deleted the post?” [After the incident in Vake Park, City Hall deleted material depicting officials opening the fountain the day before Meparishvili was killed].
The protestors also released plumes of black smoke into the air to symbolize the “crime” and “corruption.” The sound of air-raid sirens was also heard periodically.
Tsotne Koberidze, a Girchi – More Freedom deputy of the Tbilisi Local Council (Sakrebulo), explained in a conversation with journalists that the protest seeks to prevent similar cases from happening in the future.
“When he [Kaladze] is proud of his parks, public squares, and gives himself political points, it’s all good, but when such a fatal thing happens and they delete posts [from all social media platforms], and they only speak about legal responsibility, this becomes a moral crime, it’s inhumane behavior,” he stressed.
Civil activist Nika Parulava, who participated in the protest, noted that a crime took place in Tbilisi City Hall, “which the mayor of Tbilisi and his employees are trying to cover up in an orchestrated and organized manner.”
According to Ana Subeliani, co-director of Tbilisi Pride, the incident in Vake Park is “the direct responsibility” of City Hall and Mayor Kaladze. “The whole city knows what kind of corrupt system he heads, and what happened is the result of this corrupt system, unprofessionalism, and carelessness,” she underscored.
Khatia Bakuradze, who represents the movement Civil Resistance, also stressed that responsibility falls on the Mayor and added that “the trouble is that no one takes responsibility for anything.” “This is a political issue, [Kakha Kaladze] should take responsibility for himself and resign,” she said.
Around noon, several lawyers, who have applied to City Hall to hold a protest rally on Rustaveli Avenue on 20 October, also joined the rally.
“Our task is to call on Kakha Kaladze, that he or another high-ranking official [for example PM Irakli Garibashvili] should take political responsibility and answer for this indifference, the indifference that has been committed,” lawyer Lekso Kobaidze told journalists.
The protest in front of City Hall lasted for about three hours. Neither Mayor Kaladze nor City Hall employees came outside to speak with the participants.