Georgia’s Interior Ministry: 66 people detained at protest against ‘foreign agents’ law in Tbilisi. Police used tear gas against protesters

Sixty-six people were detained during a protest against the law on “foreign agents” that took place in the centre of Tbilisi on 7 March, Georgia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs reports.

The protesters are being charged with disorderly conduct and failing to comply with police officers’ orders. The ministry has also initiated an investigation into “violent incidents” under the articles of Georgia’s Criminal Code on attacking a police officer and damaging or destroying property.

According to the ministry’s version of events that transpired on 7 March, police officers arrived in the centre of Tbilisi “with the purpose of protecting the public order and ensuring a peaceful conduct of the rally”.

“Later on, the protest went over the line established by the law on free speech and peaceful assembly and turned violent. The people gathered near the parliament building tried to block the entrances to the parliament, however, the police didn’t allow them to do so,” the statement by the ministry reads.

The police asked people to protest peacefully, in accordance with the law, the ministry claims. However, the protesters threw stones, flammable items, blunt objects into law enforcement officers, used force against them, and offered resistance, according to the ministry.

“To restore public order and prevent violations, the police had to use proportional force and special means of coercion,” Georgia’s Interior Ministry continues.

The protesters threw Molotov cocktails and pyro towards police officers, they also set fire to the parliament building and broke windows, the ministry claims. Around 50 law enforcement officers received injuries.

On 7 March, Georgia’s Parliament approved in the first reading one of the two bills on “foreign agents”. It was supported by the ruling party Georgian Dream. A protest rally against the law took place in the centre of Tbilisi, in front of the parliament building. According to different estimates, 5,000-10,000 people took to the streets. The protesters tried to block the service entrance to the parliament.

The police used tear gas on the protesters and edged them out of the building. Then law enforcement officers began using stun grenades.

Georgia’s President Salome Zourabichvili came out in support of the protesters, recording a message from New York. “Georgia sees its future in Europe. And it won’t let anyone take that European future away. <…> From the first day, it was clear that I would veto this law,” she said.

The EU Foreign Affairs High Representative Josep Borrell said that the law on “foreign agents” contradicts Georgia’s goal of entering the European Union. Ned Price, Spokesperson for the United States Department of State, stated that the US did not exclude the possibility of introducing sanctions against Georgia’s authorities.

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