Civil Georgia | Live Blog: ‘Yes to Europe, No to Russian Law’ – Rallies Against Foreign Agents Bill

Since the reintroduction of the draft law on Foreign Agents, the streets of Tbilisi have been taken over by continuous mass rallies under the slogan “Yes to Europe, No to Russian Law”, some of which have spontaneous, without the organizers announcing the rallies beforehand.

Large numbers of young people – schoolchildren, students, young adults – have been gathering and blocking Rustaveli Avenue (where the Georgian parliament is located) for several days in a row. The young Georgians have continued to rally every day, even taking a solemn oath to defend Georgia’s European choice.

On April 3, the parliamentary majority leader of the ruling Georgian Dream party, Mamuka Mdinaradze, announced the reintroduction of the draft law on foreign agents, which was dropped last year after the massive rallies on March 7-9. According to Mdinaradze, the content of the bill remains the same, the only change is in the title: the word “agent” in it has been removed and the title has been replaced with “Organization Pursuing the Interests of a Foreign Power”. The decision has drawn sharp criticism from the civil society and opposition within the country and from Georgia’s international partners. The bill has already been passed in the first hearing.

What began as protests solely against the Foreign Agents Law has now taken on a wider dimension, with demonstrators also protesting against recent amendments to the Tax Code and a Russian FSB-linked conference held at the Tbilisi Palace Hotel.

Live Blog (All times are local):

Wednesday, May 3

  • At 23:00, the Ministry of Interior issued a statement saying that the MIA had information that “certain political forces and organisers of actions were planning to organise the so-called “performance”, whereby, the ministry said, they wanted to “stage alleged violent actions by law enforcement officers”. The plan, according to the Ministry, was to wear the uniforms of representatives of various units of the Ministry of the Interior and to spread information as if the police had joined the demonstrators. The Ministry noted that this alleged plan was prompted by the failure to convince police forces to join the protest. The MIA called on representatives of political parties, the organizers of the rally “and persons with similar intentions to refrain from such provocations and to respect the professional activities of law enforcement officers”.
  • After protesting at the GD head quarters part of the demonstrators returned to the Parliament building, another part gathered with lit candles by the Kashueti Church on Rustaveli avenue, across from the Parliament building.
  • At 21:00, the demonstrators started marching towards the Georgian Dream headquarters. The protesters plan to end the march at the Kashueti Church on Rustaveli Avenue, a symbolic Good Friday destination.
  • At 20:30 protesters blocked off the central Rustaveli avenue.
  • A rally is also taking place in Kutaisi, in western Georgia, with participants planning to march later in the evening.
  • Shorty after 20:00 one of the rally participants has been reportedly detained for “insulting a policeman.” Vazha Siradze, chief of Tbilisi patrol police, when asked, at the spot, by local journalists about the evidence that the detainee had actually done anything illegal, said that he was not a court to conduct a trial and added: “You should take the policemen at their word”.
  • At 18:30, the protest rally, this time under the slogan “Hear True Georgian Voices”, resumed in front of the Paragraph Hotel on Freedom Square (owned, incidentally by Cartu Bank belonging to Bidzina Ivanishvili), where an Asian Development Bank conference is taking place.
Protest Rally near the Paragraph Hotel, May 4, Photo: Muro Takalandze

Thursday, May 2

  • Reportedly 23 people were detained following protest rallies on May 2.
  • At around 21:00, the police began to disperse the citizens in Heroes Square using force and pepper spray, according to reports. The crowd then began to march from Rustaveli Avenue to Heroes’ Square in support of their fellow citizens. As the number of people increased significantly, Heroes’ Square was soon blocked again.
  • One of the organizers of the demonstration on Heros’ Square has been arrested around 19:30.
  • The demonstrators who gathered at Heros’ Square were able to completely shut down the intersection. The people gathered there called on the drivers of the cars to come out and join them, which part of the drivers did.
  • At 19:00, part of the demonstrators started to gather on Rustaveli avenue in front of the Parliament.
  • The protests resumed at 18:00 with demonstrators gathering at Heros’ Square, one of the most important intersections in the city, connecting the main highways of Tbilisi:
Photo: Guram Muradov/

  • Reportedly, at early morning hours, at around 5 a.m., the police arrested two demonstrators after verbal confrontations, when one demonstrator “verbally insulted policemen” by trelling them that they “sold themselves for 1500 GEL”.
  • At 02:09, international hackers team named “Anonymous” confirmed that it had taken down the websites of Georgian Dream and PosTV, pro-Government channel. The team’s statement reads: “To the puppet government of Georgia, controlled by Russia: Despite our warning, you have decided to disregard our request to stop the police brutality against the protesters and have persisted in continuing to abuse, harass, and harm them. For your inhumane actions against your own citizens, we will continue to deface and take every web-based asset of your government offline. This is not a threat; it is a promise. Until justice prevails, hacking and protesting will replace it. The cause of security and democracy will justify the assault on your virtual infrastructure. Don’t forget: Georgia is not Russia, and it will never be.”
  • Protest against the Foreign Agents Bill continues with the police cracking down on the protesters. As of 01:30, 8 civilians had been hospitalized with one of them already discharged from hospital, according to the Emergency Situations Coordination and Urgent Assistance Center of Georgia. The injured exhibit a range of injuries, encompassing wounds to the face, head, and various body regions, alongside intoxication and respiratory complications. According to the same information, dozens of citizens, including one law enforcer, have been provided with medical assistance. 20 ambulance crews remain on the ground.
  • At 00:48 am Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association said that “unlawful use of special means” has been observed near the Parliament of Georgia. GYLA notes that tear gas and rubber bullets were used indiscriminately. Peaceful protestors are targeted. The watchdog said there have been violations of human rights and dignity and call on Interior Ministry to halt these actions and on special forces “to refuse illegal orders.”

Wednesday, May 1

  • Shortly after the midnight Parliament of Georgia issued a statement saying that due to the attack on the Parliament building, which poses a threat to the lives and health of the people in the building, the red level of security was activated from 23:00 on May 1. According to the relevant decree, under the red level of security, all persons are obliged to leave the Parliament building, except for those determined by the Speaker of the Parliament in accordance with the nature of the threat and the need to prevent it.
  • At around midnight the Interior Ministry issued a statement saying it used special measures – water cannons, pepper spray and tear gas against the protesters who tried to break in the Parliament yard. Interior Ministry denied using the rubber bullets against the demonstrators, which is contradicted by numerous video testimonies. MIA called on protesters “to stop violent and illegal actions and protest in a peaceful manner, otherwise the police will be forced to use special means established by law and stop the rally.”
  • A large protest rally took place in Batumi, in western Georgia.
  • A fire broke out on Chitadze Street, where one of the entrances to the Parliament building is located. It seems that the wooden boards that covered the works on the side street were set on fire. The riot police is putting the fire out with water cannons.
  • Reportedly, the participants of the rally, opposition Girchi – More Freedom party member Tsotne Koberidze and Mtavari TV operator Zuka Chkhvirkia are injured from the rubber bullets shot by the riot police.
  • At 22:39, the Public Defender of Georgia issued a statement saying that the office is monitoring the ongoing protest near the Parliament. The statement notes that the protesters shouldn’t exceed the constitutionally protected right to peaceful protest and reminds the MIA that it can take appropriate and proportionate measures to disperse the rally only if it becomes violent or unconstitutional.
  • At 22:35, Ursula von Der Leyen, President of the European Commission issued a statement – “I am following the situation in Georgia with great concern and condemn the violence on the streets of Tbilisi. The Georgian people want a European future for their country. Georgia is at a crossroads. It should stay the course on the road to Europe.”
  • MIA released another statement saying: “After the units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs left the territory around the Parliament, the participants of the rally became aggressive and tried to damage the iron doors of the entrance to the legislative body. In order to restore law and order, the employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs used special means provided by the law – pepper spray and water cannons”.
  • At around 22:10 riot police began spraying pepper spray, tear gas and water cannons at demonstrators who were trying to break into the Parliament building by breaking down the heavily sealed metal doors of the Parliament. Rubber bullets were reportedly used to disperse the rally, injuring a 16-year-old boy and two cameramen, including one from Formula TV.
  • Parallel rallies are held by Georgian emigrants in front of the Georgian Consulate in Israel, in New York, London and near the Georgian Embassy in Brussels.
  • The MIA issued another statement at 21:30, reporting that “the representatives of various units of the Ministry of Interior, after ensuring the safe exit of the MPs and employees of the Parliament, completely left the area surrounding the Parliament. The demonstrators have the opportunity to hold a rally at a place of their choice”.
  • The bill was passed in the second reading around 20:00, an hour before the end of the plenary session, as the MPs from the parliamentary majority refrained from making speeches and only Anri Okhanashvili, MP from the GD, made a final speech. More and more people are gathering around the Parliament.
  • The MIA issued a statement calling on citizens to “express their protests in the forms established by law and not to paralyze the streets.” It also urges protesters not to make calls that “could become a precondition for violent acts.” The statement emphasizes that “any illegal act will be met with an appropriate lawful response.
  • Citizens began to gather around the Parliament at 17:00. Riot police were soon mobilized in the side streets and behind the Parliament building. Rustaveli Avenue has been blocked.
  • An increasing number of residents are generously offering accommodation in Tbilisi and covering of the transportation expenses for citizens from regions who are joining the protests in the capital.
  • As for 13:00, the Parliament of Georgia has resumed the second hearing of the Foreign Agents Law, with the tensions continuing to run high in the legislation following the brutal police crackdown on the demonstration. People from all across the country are rushing to capital Tbilisi to protest on the Rustaveli avenue this evening.

Tuesday, April 30

After the GD organized so-called counter rally, which mobilized people from Georgian provinces who were bussed to Tbilisi, which announced repressions against the “collective” UNM and opponents, and was infused with anti-Western messages, the anti-foreign agents law protest rally resumed with new impetus at 19:00 local time. Massive mobilization of law enforcers is observed near the Parliament building. By approximately 21:00 the police closed the streets on the left and right-hand side of the Parliament. The demonstrators tried to block the entrance of the Parliament building to prevent the GD MPs from leaving.

At around this time the Interior Ministry issued statement saying that “the law enforcement officers are mobilized to ensure the safety of all citizens.” The statement also said that “Employees of various departments of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, in order to ensure the safe exit of the deputies and employees of the Parliament from the building and to avoid artificial escalation of the events, are at the entrances of the legislative body and call upon the gathered people to leave the entrances and exits of the Parliament building.” The MIA warned that “any violation of the law will be dealt with in accordance with the law.”

Part of demonstrators went to the Government Administration building.

The situation became tense at around 21:45 by the back entrance of the Parliament with riot police using pepper spray without prior warning.

Riot police brutality continued, with dozens of demonstrators injured, many cornered and beaten by law enforcement. According to a correspondent on the scene, the riot police used pepper spray and tear gas on the demonstrators. There is reportedly shortage of ambulances at the site. At 22:20, the Ministry of Interior issued another statement, noting that despite calls for the demonstrators to leave the premises, they didn’t do so, and “in order to restore law and order, the Ministry of Interior used legally established special means”. The MIA reiterated calls “to political leaders, organizers and participants of the rally not to exceed the norms of assembly and demonstration established by law.”

The riot police without in black, without visibly identifiable police badges were lashing out from the ranks of the riot police trying to snatch individual protesters and cracked down on protesters several times throughout the evening, using water cannons, pepper spray and tear gas. This was followed by the riot police carrying out a special operation on Rustaveli Avenue, forcing the protesters off the avenue.

Closer to midnight MIA issued another statement saying that “the protest of the participants of the rally on Rustaveli Avenue…went beyond the scope established by the law on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and took on a violent character.” MIA said that “despite numerous appeals by the police, they do not comply with the legal demands of the law enforcement officers” and “confront the law enforcement officers verbally and physically, and also throw various objects in their direction.”
Thus the MIA said, it is starting to “implement the measure stipulated by the law in order to restore public order.”

Despite the special forces detachment’s brutal attempts to break up the protest, using every means at their disposal, including pepper spray, tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets, people continue to remain on Rustaveli Avenue, and even more are gathering there. At around 1 a.m., the riot police resumed their efforts to disperse the protest, again using gas and water cannons.

At 12:42, President Salome Zurabishvili issued a statement calling on the MIA to immediately stop breaking up the peaceful protests with “disproportionate use of force, violence against young people who come with bare hands”. The President appealed to the Public Defender to respond immediately to the ongoing violence and demand an end to “all unfounded and inappropriate actions of the special forces.”

Human Rights watchdogs Transparency International-Georgia and Georgian Young Lawyers Association issued separate statements saying that the law enforcers used disproportionate force against the protesters and calling on relevant authorities to investigate.

The Ombudsman of Georgia released a statement assessing the use of force against the demonstrators by the law-enforcers as disproportionate and calling on the investigative bodies “o conduct an effective investigation into the facts of the use of disproportionate force.

The rally continued into the late morning hours. The riot police left the scene before the demonstrators at around 5 a.m. The MIA held a briefing at 10 a.m. on May 1, announcing that 63 peaceful demonstrators had been detained yesterday and that 6 police officers had allegedly been injured. Among those detained is a U.S. citizen Ted Jonas, a lawyer working for Anaklia Development Consortium LLC. He was also severely beaten by the police. The leader of the main opposition UNM party, Levan Khabeishvili, was severely beaten and injured by police. He had to be taken to hospital.

Monday, April 29

Several dozen demonstrators gathered at the back entrance of the Parliament building in the morning to protest against the Agent Law as the Legal Issues Committee began its second hearing on the controversial law.

Sunday, April 28

Thousands of citizens gathered in Tbilisi’s Republic Square from 19:00 for a mass rally organized by over 100 civil society and media organizations. National and European anthems were played. Speakers addressed the crowd. Around 21:00, the demonstrators began marching toward Rustaveli Avenue, once again blocking the way. Soon the avenue was filled with tens of thousands of demonstrators, an unprecedented number of protesters so far in the last two weeks.

The massive rally comes ahead of the ruling majority’s upcoming vote on the controversial law in its second reading next week, alongside a counter-rally organized by the GD scheduled for tomorrow.

Speakers delivered the statement of the rally organizers, calling on the government not to schedule the plenary session for the second reading of the law tomorrow, as many expect. They emphasized that if the government proceeds with scheduling the second reading tomorrow, they have a plan and special locations to mobilize people against it.

Around midnight, as more and more people mobilized in front of the Parliament, where a special stage had been prepared for the GD rally, there were demands to allow some youth to enter the stage and raise EU and Georgian flags, and the situation between the demonstrators and the police escalated. The Georgian MIA issued a statement calling on the activists “not to damage the inventory and equipment of the stage set up on Rustaveli Avenue in front of the legislature” Tear gas was reportedly used.

Riot police has been deployed at the Parliament. The MIA issued another statement saying that “the protest took a violent turn” with “demonstrators physically and verbally confronting law enforcement” and “attempting to break through the police cordon. The MIA mentioned that the police used “special means” to restore order. The riot police is now calling the remaining protesters to clear off.

Police used pepper spray during the standoff.

At midnight, the Tbilisi municipality office issued a statement saying that on 22 April, the Georgian Dream party had sent a letter to the Tbilisi municipality regarding the public rally planned for 29 April on Rustaveli Avenue. The statement noted that “due to the size of the gathering, the organizers planned to start preparations three days earlier and asked for various measures required by law to be taken.”

The statement said that “the gathering of the rally participants, who are now in the vicinity of the parliament, is unauthorized” and called on the participants “to refrain from provocations and give the organizers of the event planned for April 29 the opportunity to carry out their work”.

The Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) called on the MIA not to use special means against peaceful demonstrators and not to use riot police, stressing that there is no legal basis for a violent dispersal of the demonstration. “Publicly released footage shows that special forces are positioned at three exits of the demonstration area (from Chitadze, Chichinadze, and Liberty Square onto Rustaveli Avenue)” the statement reads noting that “they are equipped with special gas masks.” GYLA says this raises concerns “that the Ministry of Interior Affairs plans to use active special means, including tear gas. The footage also shows water cannon trucks. “We urge the Ministry of Interior Affairs not to use active special means against peaceful demonstrators and not to use them in their usual unlawful practice, such as at close range, targeting vital organs, and using multiple active special means simultaneously,” GYLA statement read.

Alexi (Buka) Petriashvili, former State Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration (in 2012-2014 in the GD government) was detained by police, MIA has confirmed to news outlet Publika. He’s been detained on administrative charges, under the Art. 166 (petty hooliganism) and Art. 173 (resisting the police).

The Public Defender made a statement shortly after midnight emphasizing that interference with the freedom of assembly is permissible only if the action takes a violent and/or illegal nature, “in which case the termination of the assembly by the authorities should be used as a last resort and the use of force within the mentioned framework should meet the strict test of necessity and proportionality.” The Ombudsman’s statement said that “as of April 29, 00:30 there is no prerequisite for stopping the assembly and the rally is peaceful, therefore the Public Defender appeals to the Ministry of Internal Affairs not to use force against the peaceful participants of the assembly” and allow protesters to enjoy their rights guaranteed by the constitution.

Thursday, April 25

The protests against the Foreign Agents Law started at 19:00. The demonstrators marched from the Parliament to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Government Administration. The protests ended at Rustaveli Avenue, where the demonstrators again blocked the street, but after the police demanded to move away from the street, they continued their protests in front of the Parliament.

Wednesday, April 24

22:00-Protests against the Foreign Agents bill continues for the tenth day in a row. Protesters again block Rustaveli Avenue, defying police warnings earlier in the day. Claiming that the number of people at the rallies was “significantly decreasing” and citing Georgian laws, police warned of a “legal response.” Protesters are marching towards the Europe square.

Later, Lazare Grigoriadis, who had been released from prison earlier in the day after a Presidential pardon, joined those demonstrators who were back at the Parliament on Rustaveli Avenue.

Tuesday, April 23

Popular protests against the reintroduced Foreign Agents Law continued for the ninth day in a row. aT 19:00 citizens of all generations gathered in front of the Georgian Parliament and marched to the EU Delegation office. On their way, the demonstrators came across with ruling GD’s spin-off People’s Power MP Davit Kacharava and confronted him about the bill.

To be updated…

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