Protest rallies stop, government promises talks for more effective drug policy

Pro-legalisation movement leaders agreed on one week term to the minister and announced a rally on Saturday to summarise the results. Photo: Nino Alavidze/, 14 May 2018 - 02:09, Tbilisi,Georgia

Minister of Internal Affairs Giorgi Gakharia has one week to fulfill his promise given to White Noise Movement activists today.

He has promised to begin talks on re-examining the country’s drug policy. 

Under the order of the minister, police escorted the protesters away from Rustaveli Avenue in order to ensure they did not have run-ins with a right-wing group that had gathered close by.

The other confronting group of protesters across the street also decided to stop the rally. 

A peaceful resolution of possible confrontation between the two groups came after a more than one hour meeting between the Minister of Internal Affairs accompanied by Tbilisi Mayor and the White Noise Movement leaders inside the parliament building. 

The movement and its supporters started the rally in front of the Parliament after the police raid of Tbilisi night clubs Bassiani and Cafe Gallery on May 12 resulting in the arrest of eight drug dealers. Protesters have also criticised the government for an ineffective drug policy.

Counter protesters headed by ultra-nationalist movement Georgian National Unity,  took an opposing stance and demanded the pro-liberalisation rally stop. The members of this group were trying to cross the police cordon and reach other demonstrators on Rustaveli Avenue all day long.  

By the late evening on May 13 it became harder for police to protect peaceful protesters in front of the parliament building. PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili said he was taking responsibility to ensure the freedom of expression and safety of protesters on Rustaveli Avenue calling on police to prevent any possible confrontation between the two groups.

After the meeting with the pro-legalisation movement leaders the Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia promised the protesters that the government would work to improve the country’s drug policy.

"In order to achieve our goal which means finding a solution for quite complicated tasks we need to start constructive talks,” Gakharia said to the people gathered in front of the parliament building after the meeting. He  promised he would start talking with their representatives and invited them to a meeting on May 14 at 10 a.m. to discuss the police raid details and the possible violation of citizens’ rights.  
"I also promise that we will achieve real results in terms of drug policy and if we do not fulfill our promise the possibility to dance or listen to music in a free city in front of a free parliament will always be there,” he added.

He also apologised to protesters if anyone's safety was at risk by police and also asked them to do the same if they happened to insult any of the police workers.

One of the leaders of the White Noise Movement Beka Tsikarishvili said they would observe how fairly the minister will fulfill the promises and announced a  larger rally on Saturday to summarise results.

"We take a one week break in order to see how the process will go further, how constructive and how real the promises will be,” he said adding the the Saturday rally would be crucial.