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Freedom Square unblocked

By Mzia Kupunia
Tuesday, June 2
The improvised cells have been removed from Tbilisi’s Freedom Square as the opposition has decided to move “cell town” to its “summer mode.” The cells had been blocking traffic movement on Freedom Square in downtown Tbilisi for more than 2 months as a sign of protest against President Mikheil Saakashvili. However Rustaveli Avenue remains blocked.

The leader of the New Rights Party, David Gamkrelidze said that blocking the central square has “exhausted” its purpose, adding that the opposition should now focus on picketing the Parliament building. “Parliament should become the main venue of protests and I am sure the rallies will spread throughout Georgia,” Gamkrelidze noted.

The “radical” opposition is continuing to rally in front of the Tbilisi Mayor’s Office. Demonstrators blocked Shartava Street close to the Mayor’s office for 2 hours on Monday. Members of the New Rights Party, Conservative Party, People’s Party and Movement for United Georgia participated in this action alongside several hundred opposition supporters. “We don’t have the right to stop. As soon as the protest rallies stop the Government will attack the citizens and pressurise them. Due to our protests this pressure decreases. The protest rallies have stopped some negative processes taking place in the country,” Koba Davitashvili from the People’s Party told the demonstrators.

“We are not propagating violence, but when they hit us, we are not going to surrender,” said Eka Beselia, one of the leaders of the Movement for United Georgia, led by Georgia’s former Defence Minister Irakli Okruashvili, referring to the assault on opposition activist Melor Vachnadze late on May 31. Nine unidentified men, dressed in civilian clothes, attacked Vachnadze on Kolmeurneoba Square and beat him “brutally”, the opposition said. According to Salome Zourabichvili from The Way of Georgia, Vachnadze was taken to hospital with a spinal injury. His mother told journalists that his father, Vano Vachnadze, had been shot at his home on May 30 while he was in his car. She said 7 bullets hit the car but Vano Vachnadze was not injured. Vachnadze’s family does not want to link the incident with the political activities of their son.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs said an investigation is studying the May 31 incident. According to the MIA, Vachnadze has said he does not know who attacked him. Earlier the Georgian media reported that Vachnadze had recognized one of the assaulters. Vachnadze’s advocate Tsismari Oniani said Vachnadze recognized a local National Movement youth activist, Giorgi Kakulia. Melor Vachnadze remains in hospital, where doctors say his condition is “stable.”

The opposition have set out their plans for the week. The non-Parliamentary opposition leaders have called on their supporters to protest at the Parliament building on Tuesday. Protests in the town of Rustavi are planned for Wednesday. Former Presidential candidate and prominent opposition leader Levan Gachechiladze has said that the demonstrators will gather at Parliament on June 3 and head to Rustavi later to express their protest against the suspension of pro-opposition TV channel Maestro’s broadcasts there.