Georgian police pushed the protesters away from the parliament building

Georgian police pushed the protesters away from the parliament building

Georgian police pushed protesters away from the parliament building

by the Georgian Parliament building in Tbilisi on March 8, 2023.

Tbilisi – Georgian police last night used water cannons and tear gas to crack down on demonstrators who gathered outside the parliament in Tbilisi to protest against the controversial law on foreign agents. After clashes, the protesters were pushed out of the central Rustaveli Avenue, where the Legislative Assembly building is located. According to AFP, tens of thousands of people took part in anti-government protests today, which are taking place for the second day in a row. Critics of the law fear it will push Georgia toward an authoritarian regime modeled after Russia.

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Protesters tried to protect themselves from the water cannons with metal plates and threw stones and other objects at the parliament building, Georgian news agency Interpressnews reported. According to Reuters, the crowd broke through the barriers around the parliament at one point, but did not try to enter the building itself.

Demonstrators have been blocking Rustaveli Avenue since this afternoon, waving the flags of Georgia and the European Union and shouting the slogan: “No to Russian law !” Observers cited by the DPA agency estimated the number of demonstrators at 10,000 to 15,000, which represents a higher turnout than on Tuesday.

According to the Interpressnews agency, today the leaders of the protest gave the government an ultimatum to withdraw the norm and release those arrested from Tuesday's demonstration. During that, according to the Ministry of the Interior, 77 people were detained, who are now at risk of punishment for rioting and disobeying police instructions. According to the ministry, fifty law enforcement officers were injured during the clashes overnight.

On Tuesday, the government majority in parliament approved the draft law on foreign agents in the first reading. Critics see the norm as a shift in the Transcaucasian republic towards an authoritarian regime modeled after Russia, where a similar law has been in place since 2012. The norm is intended to ensure that organizations that receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad register as “foreign agents” and undergo with the control of the Ministry of Justice. Otherwise, they would face heavy fines.

President Salome Zourabishvili, who has previously supported the protesters and promised to veto the law if it is passed, today called on the government to refrain from using force against the protesters. According to her, the Georgian authorities have “the last chance to show that they are not an informal pro-Russian force”, reported the Russian news agency TASS.

Today, according to AFP, the US State Department expressed “solidarity with the Georgian people” and called on the government in Tbilisi to respect “peaceful demonstrations”. It also reiterated that Washington is concerned about the upcoming law. Today, according to the RBK-Ukraine server, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wished the protesters “democratic and European success”. He also thanked those who brought Ukrainian flags to the demonstrations as a sign of solidarity with Russia, the country under attack.