Third Day of Protest Rallies Against Foreign Agents’ Law: Recap

On April 17, protesters gathered against the Foreign Agents Law in central Tbilisi for the third day in a row. After Parliament approved the law in its first reading yesterday with 83 votes in favor and none against (the opposition did not take part in the vote), civil society representatives, activists, opposition called on citizens to come to the Parliament building at 19:00 to protest against the “Russian law”.

Thousands of peaceful demonstrators answered the call, demanding the repeal of the Foreign Agents law, while proudly waving Georgian, EU, and Ukrainian flags. One protester’s banner warned, “Speak up, or Russians are already speaking on your behalf.” Amidst chants of “Slaves to Russians,” the crowd directed their grievances towards the authorities. Another poster mentioned the 83 MPs who supported the bill, labeling them as “83 Traitors, Putin’s 83 Slaves.” Messages like “Yes to Europe, No to Russian Law” were held aloft, conveying the general sentiment.

After emotional statements denouncing the law and the ruling Georgian Dream party, organizers gave the government one hour to withdraw the bill, with unclear repercussions.

As expected, the government remained silent in response to the demonstrators’ demand, so a part of the demonstration marched to the Government administration building demanding to free the detainees of the protests and insisting on a meeting with Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze. Organizers urged the demonstrators to remain peaceful, which they did.

Meanwhile, just hours before the demonstration knocked on the Government’s door, Kobakhidze said he was ready to engage in debates with everyone, including foreign ambassadors and politicians on the law. However, he did not meet the protesters yesterday.

The Prime Minister, who reportedly was within the building, and his administration were shielded by a formidable police presence. People remained peaceful, but the alleged provocations coming from the law enforcement were reported. During the protest, the Ministry of Internal Affairs reported the detention of two citizens.

Opposition MP Aleko Elisashvili (Citizens party), who the day before had attacked the ruling GD majority leader Mamuka Mdinaradze during his presentation of the law in the Legal Issues Committee, was physically assaulted by police and detained for several hours, according to Elisashvili himself. The police allegedly broke his rib while beating him. The MP has visible injuries on his face and body.

Later, some of the demonstrators returned to the parliament, while others stayed at the government administration, where they remained until the early morning of April 18. In the morning, the areas around the Parliament and the government administration were empty, but the protest against the Foreign Agents bill is highly likely to continue in the thousands as the ruling Georgian Dream party is expected to push through the legislation in the second and third hearings in the coming weeks, against the massive international and domestic outcry.

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


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