UPDATE: Hundreds protest police raid of Tbilisi night clubs

Demonstrators say there was an excessive use of force and abuse by the police and require the government members to meet with them. Photo: Mzia Saganelidze/RFE/RL
Agenda.ge, 12 May 2018 - 21:45, Tbilisi,Georgia

Update: 21:45

Hundreds of protesters have closed Rustaveli avenue in Tbilisi criticising police raid of the night clubs Bassiani and Cafe Gallery yesterday resulting in the detention of eight drug traffickers. 

Demonstrators say there was an excessive use of force and abuse by the police and require the government members to meet with them, as well as PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili and the Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia to resign.

"We, with the PM Kvirikashvili and members of the party gathered today to discuss the situation," Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze told journalists inviting the protesters to join the government's will to take some steps in order to change the existing drug policy which is "not acceptable for anyone". 

"This is a huge problem and if they are interested what is our opinion about the drug policy and what we are going to do in this direction, we offer them to come and talk about. Our doors are open. Let's fight together against the drug trafficking and dealers," Kaladze said. 

Earlier: 11:14

8 people have been arrested for drug trafficking last night in a police raid of Tbilisi night clubs Bassiani and Gallery.

"The Ministry of Internal affairs has been conducting an intensive investigation during three months to reveal cases of drug trafficking at the clubs of Bassiani and Gallery,” says the statement by the Ministry adding that the government supports development of clubs but declares "an irreconcilable fight" against drugs.

Public Defender Nino Lomjaria said she spoke with the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs last night and received an explanation.

"They say the operation was planned under a court order and that they had evidence including video evidence that drugs were traded on the premises of the clubs,” she explained.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs has released the video evidence today. 

The police raid was followed by several confrontations between the police and clubbed last night resulting in the detention of 20 people for administrative offences. All of them released, the ministry said today.

The White Noise Movement, a pro-drug liberalisation movement which is also the organiser of the protest rally at Rustaveli avenue stated today that the reason behind the operation was to shut down the clubs and independent movements.

"This operation was preceded by a dirty campaign against the clubs and independent movements headed by pro-Russian regressive forces who have been intentionally fighting against the most precious achievement of the youth culture of independent Georgia  - the ideas of freedom, equality and solidarity,” says the statement.

After the death of five young people by taking an unknown poisonous drug during the past weeks, on May 7 Bassiani issued a statement warning that there was an "endless smear campaign ushered against BASSIANI / HOROOM” by the right movement.

"Some politically motivated groups have even asked for the closure of the club and the arrests of the heads and blame them for those deaths. Those rightist political forces have tried to discredit our club and use its name as an instrument of political confrontation a number of times. We hereby declare that since the opening of BASSIANI / HOROOM, not a single person’s life has been threatened and none of the tragic deaths have occurred on the territory of the club,” reads the statement where the Bassiani management explains that the club "has never engaged in any illicit drug trade and each clubgoer is thoroughly searched before entering the club.”

The BASSIANI / HOROOM club, which opened in 2015 and quickly gained recognition from several influential international publications, acclaimed DJs and producers, as well as of music lovers from several countries characterises itself as a collective movement "that stands at the forefront of the social changes and speaks loudly regarding the inequality in the country, high level of injustice and discrimination.”