Georgian Interior Minister responsible for brutal protest dispersal: I don’t plan on resigning
Georgian Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia said that the dispersal of a rally near the parliament on June 20 was a legitimate measure without alternatives, since protesters were going to storm the parliament.
In an hour and a half interview with TV Pirveli, Gakharia said that he doesn’t plan on resigning.
He added that his mistake was that he gave the order to use heavy equipment too late.
In an interview with popular journalist Inge Grigolia, whom he constantly mistakenly called Irma, Gakharia stressed more than once that he was not going to resign.
“For me now, resignation and leaving would be the easiest. This would be the easiest way out … it would be an escape from responsibility”, he said.
Gakharia says that the youth demanding his resignation “are sincerely expressing their opinion”, however, “they do not realize what it means to be in the public service and act for the goals of the state.”
“They do not understand what it means when the parliament, which over the past 30 years has been taken by storm several times, is physically attacked for the third time, in a group, systematically and in an organized way,” the minister said.
He also said that specific opposition politicians are fighting against him under the guise of the struggle against the occupation.
The minister noted that at first the parliament’s action was peaceful, but then the United National Movement opposition party, led by ex-President Saakashvili, used the “legitimate protest of peaceful citizens” for their revolutionary goals.
Gakharia said that the police were left unprotected by the parliament, as the protesters took the police shields and threw bottles and other objects at them.
The minister also said that the claim that the police used rubber bullets meant to drive away bears and other large animals was false.
He admitted that there were only isolated cases of officers abusing their authority.
“It’s also hard for me to look at special forces who take aim at someone.”
The minister promised to investigate these cases and punish those responsible.
Asked whether the former Prime Minister and informal leader of the country Bidzina Ivanishvili shared Gakharia’s opinion on the dispersal of the rally, he answered:
“He partially shares it, partially doesn’t. He agrees it was a legitimate response. But he also sees that there was use of excessive force that needs to be investigated”, said Gakharia.
The interview with the minister has caused much criticism on Facebook.
“If he were Pinochio, if he wouldn’t have had rubber bullets, he would have gouged our eyes with his nose,” wrote one of the users.
When the minister left the Pirveli TV studio, he was booed by a crowd that was waiting for the end of the interview.
Protesters watched his interview on a big screen, and cried “Leave”, “Liar” and “Bloodthirsty.”
The biggest lie, protesters attributed to the minister, was that the police allegedly warned protesters before dispersing.
“This didn’t happen and all this will be confirmed. We will continue demonstrations with a new force demanding his resignation and after this cynical interview there will be more of us”, said Shota Digmelashvili, one of the organizers of the rally and editor of Forbes Georgia.
Protests began in Tbilisi on June 20.
Thousands of people took to the streets to express their discontent with the arrival of State Duma Deputy Sergei Gavrilov, who spoke in Tbilisi at the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy from the speaker’s chair.
The indignation of the citizens of Georgia was caused by the fact that the assembly, which was held in the meeting room of the parliament, was opened in Russian by Gavrilov, who publicly supports the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Thousands of people gathered outside the parliament building with a question to the authorities: “How dare a deputy from an occupying country take the chair of the Georgian parliament speaker?”
At dawn on June 21, police special forces broke up the rally using rubber bullets, water cannon and tear gas. More than 200 people were injured, two lost their eyes, one is still connected to a respirator due to an injury when a rubber bullet hit him in the head.
On the afternoon of June 21, Georgian Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze resigned.
On June 24, the authorities satisfied another demand of the protesters – to hold the 2020 parliamentary elections under the proportional system.
At this moment, the main and only demand of the participants of the demonstration for more than three weeks has been the resignation of the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Giorgi Gakharia.
Starting June 20, every day demonstrations have been held near the parliament in Tbilisi, as well as in other cities of the country – Kutaisi, Gori, Batumi. The opposition calls the events of that night “a punitive operation.”
Protesters, as well as local and international human rights organizations, say that the police did not warn protesters about the use of force to disperse. The police allegedly fired at protesters, using rubber bullets designed to scare large animals.
Meanwhile, Gakharia states that the police acted legitimately, preventing the seizure of the parliament and an attempted coup d’état. In addition, the prosecutor’s office has begun to investigate cases of excessive force by police and special forces officers.
The protests in Tbilisi began in response to a visit to Georgia by a Russian delegation headed by Sergei Gavrilov, a member of the Russian Federation’s Communist Party.