Police fire rubber bullets & tear gas at anti-govt protest near Georgia parliament in Tbilisi
Riot police fired rubber bullets at protesters outside the national parliament in Tbilisi; some were injured. The demonstrators, who earlier tried to storm the building, are demanding the resignation of top officials.
Around 5,000 people gathered outside the parliament to denounce the participation of the Russian delegation in a session of the Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO), held in the Georgian capital.
The demonstrators’ discontent was spurred by what happened during the assembly’s session at the parliament building earlier on Thursday. The opposition MPs protested against a Russian delegation membe, IAO president Sergey Gavrilov, who addressed the participants from the official seat of the house speaker.
During a break, they occupied the speaker’s podium and prevented the summit from continuing. Gavrilov was reportedly sprayed with water by some of the Georgian parliamentarians.
Police deployed tear gas at some point of the demonstration and made the protesters retreat, but the crowd returned to the parliament building shortly afterwards. The protesters continued throwing various objects at the officers, with sporadic scuffles breaking out.
“The situation got very heated. There was a respite, and then the crowd geared up for another storm. Stones, sticks and bottles were thrown [at law enforcement] from the side of the crowd. Special forces fired rubber bullets and deployed tear gas,” Ruptly producer on the ground site described the situation.
He was injured with a rubber bullet while filming and had to go to urgent care.
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The temperature in Tbilisi on Thursday night remained over 30 degrees Celsius, so police gave out water bottles to protesters, as many were suffering from the effects of extreme heat and even fainted.
Kakha Kaladze, mayor of Tbilisi and secretary-general of the Georgian Dream ruling party, urged the demonstrators to refrain from violence instigated by “political provocateurs.” He said that onсe the protest spiraled into skirmishes with police, it has become unconstitutional.
Speaking about the incident with Gavrilov that sparked the unrest, Kaladze called it an “ourageous mistake” of the protocol service that “dealt a blow” to the whole government, calling on organizers to apologize to the Georgian public.
Gunfire could be heard in the video stream by RT’s video agency Ruptly from outside the parliament. A group of protesters is attempting to go up the stairs of the building, while riot police in full gear formed a line to stop them.
The local media says that dozens from each side were wounded in the clashes, with most of them treated by on-site medics. 40 police officers and 14 protesters were wounded in the clashes, the Georgian Health Ministry said.
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