Protesters prevent opposition leader from addressing public before ending transparency bill rally [VIDEO]

  • Giorgi Vashadze was telling demonstrators that the Government had plans to “take revenge” on them. Photo: RFE/RL, 10 Mar 2023 - 17:46, Tbilisi,Georgia

Young demonstrators on Friday prevented Giorgi Vashadze, the head of the Strategy Agmashenebeli opposition party, from addressing the audience outside the Parliament in Tbilisi before they ended the rally against the now-shelved controversial bill on transparency of foreign influence.

Vashadze attempted to make statements with demonstrators who gathered near the legislative body early on Friday, as they waited for the bill’s formal rejection following the ruling party’s announcement on Thursday of its recall. 

However, a young protester took away the microphone from the opposition leader and told Vashadze there was “no place for politicians” at the gathering, before verbally abusing domestic opposition parties. 

Demonstrators have not allowed Vashadze take the stage. Video: 1TV.

The incident came after Vashadze was criticised by the ruling party and opposition politicians for his calls to the demonstrators on Wednesday to besiege the Parliament building. The domestic political actors called the encouragements “irresponsible” and said they put the safety of young protesters and objectives of the public protests “under risk”. 

Organisers of the rally on Friday demanded the authorities release all protesters arrested during clashes with law enforcement on Tuesday and Wednesday, after the Interior Ministry on Friday said its employees had arrested 133 individuals for “violation of public order [and] rule of law”.

The state body also said 58 law enforcement officers had received “various injuries” while ensuring safety during the rallies outside the lawmaking body. 

Several of the offenders were brought before court on Thursday, while others had been released before their trials. The Ministry pledged those involved in the clashes would be “held accountable”. 

The Georgian Parliament on Friday formally retracted the draft law, following the decision by the ruling Georgian Dream party on Thursday to withdraw it. 

The legislative initiative called for 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 funding from abroad.

Georgian-based non-governmental organisations, the United States Department of State, European Union officials and the United Nations Office in Georgia all spoke out in criticism against the draft law before it was recalled.