Protests in Tbilisi over. Interior Minister apologises, offers talks on liberalisation of drug policies
The minister of internal affairs made an appearance at the parliament building. He addressed the demonstrators and offered an apology.
“Sorry”, said Minister of Internal Affairs Giorgi Gakharia, “I apologise not only personally. I apologise if any of you were threatened by an employee of the ministry of internal affairs. I also want to request that if anyone offended a security officer that has provided for your safety that you also offer them an apology”, said Gakharia.
The minister promised demonstrators that the authorities would begin work on amending the current drugs-related legislations to liberalise them. He also promised to study, in detail, the use of force by police during the operation and to punish those who are guilty:
“I promise that tomorrow, starting at 10:00, together with your representatives, we will in detail look at what happened on Friday. I also promise that we will achieve concrete results in the country’s narcotics policy”, Giorgi Gakharia said.
Before Gakharia’s speech, he met with organisers of the protest. The negotiations lasted more than an hour after which Gakharia went out to speak with those present at the demonstration.
After the minister’s speech, the leader of the White Noise Movement, Beka Tsikarishvili stated that the protestors had won their first fight. He gave the government one week to start work on liberalising the country’s drug policy. He says that if at the end of this period no first steps will have been made, then the protests will resume.
The speech of Gakharia marks the end of the protests for now.
Yesterday’s protest began at 15:00. Several thousand people, mostly youth, demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili and the Minister of Internal Affairs Giorgi Gakharia, in addition to changes in the country’s drug laws
Over the course of the day, right-wing activists also took up a spot on the Rustaveli Avenue. They hurled insults at the demonstrators and several times tried to get past the police cordon which resulted in several run-ins. However, the police handled the situation and did not allow the two demonstrating camps to approach one another and thus prevented any real confrontation from taking place.
The events took on more steam in the second half of the day.
PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili broke his two-day silence. He says that “all sides, all people have the right to freely express their opinion, but confrontation is unacceptable and we will now allow this to happen”.
The PM called on the public to ‘preserve unity’. “I address you again with the request to preserve unity in our mutual aim: the future of our country, our youth, our concerns about the future generations. Hatred because of various and dissenting views is unacceptable. Let’s unite in the defence of our country”, the PM said.
The demonstrators booed the PM’s statement. “He didn’t say anything! He didn’t answer our main question – why did they [the police] act in this way?”
The atmosphere grew tense. The number of attempts from the right-wing camp to get across the police line increased as did the number of threats. They called on the police to have the demonstration dispersed and expresesd the desire to do the job themselves.
Towards 10 p.m., additional police forces were deployed, and crowd control equipment was also present on the scene, such as water cannon.
On the second day of the demonstrations, almost no electronic music was heard, unlike the day before when the demonstrators were dancing. Organisers decided not to play music on the request of police who said that it could lead to an escalation in the situation with the right-wing camp on the other side.
Towards 10:30 p.m., Minister of Internal Affairs Giorgi Gakharia arrived on the scene, and the results of his talks with demonstrations organisers were eagerly awaited.
All of this was preceded by an interesting event which attracted the attention of demonstrators and Facebook users. The son of the ex-prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, rapper Bera, released a new music video on his Facebook page, ‘Legalize’.
In the song, the son of the leader of the ruling party supports the legalising marijuana and also comes out against the arrests of drug users. He also condemns synthetic drugs and drug dealers. In the song, he says: “I am from my generation. My generation is not afraid of the government”.
The majority of the audience saw a connection between Bera’s song and the goodwill that the authorities showed protestors on the evening of May 13.
The demonstration dispersed after the speech of the Minister of Internal Affairs. In order to avoid run-ins between the right-wing demonstration and the group in front of parliament, protestors were taken away from Rustaveli avenue on special buses.