The Georgian police on Wednesday said it had arrested 66 people for “petty hooliganism”, disobedience to law enforcement and throwing “Molotov cocktails and stones” at officers during a protest outside the Parliament building in Tbilisi after the legislative body gave its initial backing to a proposed bill on transparency of foreign influence in its first reading.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs said it had launched an investigation into the violent incidents that took place late on Tuesday as the protests involved citizens and opposition politicians protesting against the bill that involves registration of non-commercial legal entities and media outlets in the country as “agents of foreign influence” if they derive more than 20 percent of their income from abroad.
Appropriate legal assessment [by the Ministry] will be given to the actions of all persons who facilitated and organised the transformation of a peaceful protest into violent action”, the Ministry said.
The statement also said the protest had “gone beyond the scope established by the law on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly” and had taken a “violent character”.
Those gathered near the Parliament building tried to block the entrances to the Parliament, but were prevented from doing so by police. Despite numerous calls for order from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, to protest in a peaceful manner [and] within the framework of the law, the participants of the rally continued their violent actions and did not obey the legal demands of the law enforcement officers”, it also added.
Participants of the rally threw “stones, inflammable means, blunt objects” at law enforcement officers and “assaulted” police members, the Ministry added, noting they had also damaged and set fire to police vehicles.
The police were forced to consistently use proportional force and special means of coercion provided by the Law of Georgia on Police in order to restore public order and prevent violations, following the appropriate warning”, the state body said.
“Later, the demonstrators started an organised attack on the Parliament building, throwing Molotov cocktails and pyrotechnics, including in the direction of law enforcement officers”, it also noted.
The Ministry said the demonstrators “set fire to the building” of the legislative body, broke windows and damaged the protective barriers, with about 50 employees of the Ministry injured in the incidents.