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40 people detained in Batumi

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, March 13
Up to 40 people were detained, 33 injured, and more than 10 cars were burned down, as well as various pieces of infrastructure being broken during unrest in Georgia’s western coastal city of Batumi, which was allegedly caused by a verbal conflict between the patrol police and several locals for traffic violations.

Georgia’s Prime Minister and members of the ruling Georgian Dream party believe the unrest was “orchestrated by a destructive opposition faction”, they directly accuse the United National Movement opposition party.

The UNM calls the accusations “absurd”, and says the actions of the police and special law enforcements units triggered the “vandalism” in Batumi late on March 11.

The non-parliamentary opposition parties could also see the “Russian trace” in the unrest.

Members of the parliamentary opposition European Georgia party claim law enforcers' belated reactions resulted in intensive damage to the city infrastructure and harm to the people.

The President released a special statement, saying everyone had the right of expression but never at the expense of insulting or disobeying state institutions.

The media and Georgia’s Interior Ministry reported that on March 11 two people were detained by police officers on Chavchavadze Street in Batumi, as they violated traffic rules and did not obey the law enforcers.

Later, another three people were also detained. As reported by witnesses, they also did not obey the legal requirements of the policemen. All this was followed by a verbal conflict and large-scale protests as a result. The protesters demanded the detainees to be released and stated the patrol police and its chair were violating locals’ rights and offending them.

Local activist and human rights defender Merab Gogoberidze said the rally was organised by him, but he said the government was responsible for the damage the protesters inflicted to the local infrastructure.

Gogoberidze also claimed the police were exceeding their power when fining people and wrote unfairly high fines.

One of the detainees admitted before cameras that he was detained for insulting the police during the protests and that he arrived at the rally only when he heard about it on TV. His motive to attend was the word “Tatars”, although he didn’t know whether it had truly been said by the police chief.

The unrest lasted for roughly 12 hours, until at 6am special units arrived at the scene and used tear gas to subdue protesters before making arrests.

Interior Minister Giorgi Mgebrishvili said police used “proportional force” and avoided any further escalation.

He claimed that up to 40 people had been detained, while doctors said 33 people were being treated for light injures, including 11 police officers.

Most of the cars burnt down during the protest also belonged to the police.

Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili stressed that after arriving in Batumi on March 12, Georgia had a “very good and responsible Government and a very destructive opposition”.

"Unfortunately, destructive political forces do not hesitate to try to shake the foundation of the stability of the state; they provoke acts of vandalism, commit violence against representatives of state institutions, who, in accordance to our instructions, are only minimally reacting to the developments in order to avoid deterioration of the situation,” Kvirikashvili said.

Georgia’s President Giorgi Margvelashvili condemned the clash and said it must be a subject of investigation if there were some violations from the police towards the locals.

So far, during the protest rallies against the ruling forces, the population of Georgia behaved in very reasonable form, they didn't burn cars, didn't broke into the shops and didn't commit appropriate crimes, however this time the demonstrators were behaving in the aggressive form and it looked like they were deliberately prepared for such developments. They had prepared 'Molotov" coctails and it looked like they were doing everything on somebody's instructions.