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Protesters have fewer demands than opposition at Tbilisi rallies

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, July 1
Demonstrators, who took to the streets in Tbilisi on June 20 after a Russian MP was allowed to take the seat of Georgian Parliamentary Speaker, say that the Georgian Dream government has fulfilled two of three their demands, while members of the United National Movement (UNM) opposition says that two demands remain unfulfilled.

Demonstrators, mostly young people who wished to distance themselves from political parties, say that the only unfulfilled demand is the resignation of Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia, “who dispersed June 20 rally, leaving 240 injured, with several young people without an eye, or injuries to their face.”

Wife of ex-President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili, Sandra Roelofs says that Gakharia’s dismissal would not be sufficient and early parliamentary elections must be scheduled with the proportional vote.

The Georgian Dream government has fulfilled the demands on the move to the fully proportional elections from 2020 instead of 2024 and the resignation of Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze.

Gakharia says that investigation is underway regarding the June 20 rally dispersal and “if it is confirmed that something illegal took place, I will resign the same day.”

Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze thanked Gakharia and the police on Friday, saying they managed to present the “fatal events in the country, which would have started after the possible storm of the parliament building.”

The government says that the opposition members managed to transform the people’s peaceful protest into violence and an “attack on law enforcers and the state institutions on June 20.”

“Due to the opposition’s destructive behavior the rally was peaceful only until 10 p.m.,” Gakharia said.

The UNM has initiated the creation of the Gavrilov’s list [the Russian MP who occupied the seat of Georgian parliamentary speaker], which will include all those individuals in the country who “encourage occupation and hinder the country’s European development.”

“The list will also include the MPs who will not say that Gakharia must resign,” UNM member Salome Samadashvili said.

The European Georgia opposition has drafted the resolution text and presented it in Parliament, demanding Gakharia’s dismissal.

Demonstrators gathered on Rustaveli avenue after Russian MPs, from the occupant country, appeared in Georgian parliament to present the 26th assembly of the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy, an international forum with delegates from 25 countries, chaired by Gavrilov as the president.

After Gavrilov’s address, the opposition blocked the session and called upon people to protect the state dignity at a rally.

Late on June 20, police dispersed protesters after several groups tried to rush in the parliament building, using tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons.

Police made a beforehand statement, urged protesters to act peacefully.

305 were detained and 240 injured during the rally.

The government said that the protest was fair, vowed that those who organised the event in Georgia would be held accountable, but said that the rally turned into violence and police were forced to take measures.

UNM MP Nika Melia was charged with incitement to violence and was released on 30,000 GEL bail last week.

As of now 54 remain custody for disobedience to police and petty hooliganism and six are undergoing treatment in hospitals.

The government promises to cover the treatment of the injured both inside the country and abroad.

Foreign embassies have urged the government to investigate June 20 rally developments.