More than 20 people have been taken to hospital after a violence erupted in the streets of Georgia’s Black Sea coastal city of Batumi in the Adjara region in the west of the country late on Saturday evening.
A violence reportedly occurred after a group of citizens physically confronted police after an officer fined a driver for illegal parking in central Batumi.
Batumi emergency centre said that 24 people are taken either to the Batumi Referral Hospital or Batumi Republican Hospital as of 2 am on Sunday. Most of these people suffered injures in stone-throwing. There are 11 police officers among them.
Interior Minister Giorgi Mghebrishvili is currently on his way to Batumi, which is about 5-hour drive from Tbilisi.
Local media reported that witnesses said that the driver who was fined for illegal parking verbally abused police officers, which was followed by the officers violently putting the man in a police car. Reportedly, several other citizens supported the driver after which six people were arrested for "disobeying a lawful order of police office”.
However, this version of the story was questioned after representatives of the Public Defender’s Office visited the arrested men in a detention centre and they did not confirm that they were violently handled or physically assaulted by police.
Protesters turned police cars upside down and set them on fire. Photo: Batumelebi.
Meanwhile the detention of these people was followed by a protest rally in front of the Batumi Patrol Police Department, requesting for the men to be released and the police chief resigned. Rally participants said that they dislike that more and more drivers get fined in Batumi recently.
Protesters turned police cars upside down and set them on fire.
Riot police used tear gas against protesters after which rally participants ran away but came back later and police used tear gas again. Reportedly, tear gas was used several times during a one-hour period as protesters kept throwing rocks and stones to police.
Before he left for Batumi two hours ago, Interior Minister Mghebrishvili said that he has freed all six detainees because he was asked to do so by Zurab Pataridze, Chairman of the Government of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara in order to ease the unrest. However, he added that administrative proceedings have not stopped against them.
"It is disgusting and unacceptable whatever is going on in Batumi. I want to say clearly that such provocative actions will never deter the enforcment of the law and all those people who place themselves above the law will be strictly punished. Everyone must know that we are all equal before the law”, Mghebrishvili said.
President Giorgi Margvelashvili issued a statement regarding the situation at 2 am. He called for peace and said that "the right of assembly and freedom of expression must be protected, although state institutions and the law must also be respected and any form of violence is unacceptable”.