Tbilisi Rally Still Planned After Police Dismantle Protest Camp

Tbilisi Rally Still Planned After Police Dismantle Protest Camp

Tbilisi: Demonstrators who have been protesting drug raids by police in Tbilisi say they are planning to continue their demonstration, hours after local authorities dismantled a protest camp they had set up in front of the parliament building.
One of the protest leaders told journalists on May 13 that demonstrators regarded the police action as a “provocation,” but they did not resist police who began shortly after dawn to remove tents that had been erected the previous evening.
Georgia’s Interior Ministry said three intoxicated demonstrators were detained during the operation to dismantle the protest camp.
The protest camp was erected late on May 12 by thousands of people who took to the streets to protest an overnight drug raid on two popular nightclubs in the capital, demanding the resignations of the interior minister and the prime minister.
Anna Subeliani, one of the organizers of the rally, told RFE/RL that they would not stop until their demands were met.
Around 4,000 demonstrators — many dancing to electronic music pulsating from speakers — had gathered outside the Georgian parliament building in Tbilisi by early evening on May 12 in response to the morning raid that drew criticism for what some called an excessive use of police force against club goers.
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As night set in, the music — and the nightclub atmosphere — intensified, with the demonstration morphing into a kind of makeshift rave, while tents were seen being set up by protesters late in the evening.
The Interior Ministry said its officers had detained eight suspected drug dealers after storming the two clubs, Bassiani and Cafe Gallery, in the early hours of May 12.
Critics call the operation a PR stunt by police aimed at demonstrating its commitment to enforcing strict antidrug laws and intimidating the growing club scene in the Georgian capital.
Some club goers allege that drugs may have been planted by police.
“The only thing they’ve been trying to do lately is to turn public opinion against humane drug policies,” activist Beka Tsikarishvili told RFE/RL at the rally.
“This is what the recent events illustrate. So we really cannot hope that under this administration any positive changes can take place in this county,” Tsikarishvili said.
The raid followed a series of what are believed to be drug-related deaths in Tbilisi in recent weeks.
Giorgi Mshvenieradze, the head of the Georgian Democracy Initiative, a nongovernmental organization, said that some in Georgia “view clubbing subculture as something debauched and immoral.”