Georgia protests in detail

April 9th, 2009 § 0 comments

I don’t see anybody else doing a blow-by-blow account of the demonstrations in Tbilisi, so let me take a shot at it. Not sure how it’ll work out (or whether I’ll have the time/ability to stay on top of what’s happening):






Afternoon. The main demonstration has been pushed back an hour, 3pm rather than 2 (@zhvania). Protesters [move](http://twitter.com/govtofgeorgia/status/1482617453) from Avlabari metro to the parliament square, where riot police [take up positions](http://twitter.com/lingelien/statuses/1482658659). 15 EU/international govt. representatives [monitoring events](http://twitter.com/govtofgeorgia/status/1482856055) from Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Situation Room, where there is [CCTV coverage](http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=20677) of “all the main thoroughfares”.
At the rally, [Burjanadze](http://news-en.trend.az/politics/foreign/1453643.html) ‘asked pardon that she was in power and could not protect population from tyranny’. [@zhvania](http://twitter.com/zhvania) reports that the crowds didn’t like [Nino Burjanadze](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nino_Burjanadze)’s speech, and that [Gia Miasashvili](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giorgi_Maisashvili) called for changing the Georgian flag. “Eka Beselia, leader of the Movement for United Georgia party, called for acts of civil disobedience” ([source](http://caucasusreports.wordpress.com/2009/04/09/speeches-besalia-calls-for-civil-disodience/)) At the end of the main protests, the organizers [moved](http://ketevan22.wordpress.com/2009/04/09/protesters-meet-public-broadcaster/) to the public broadcaster, complaining at the lack of live coverage. There, members of the Conservative Party, including Bezhan Gunava, [attempted](http://caucasusreports.wordpress.com/2009/04/09/unrest-at-georgia-public-broadcasting/) to break through a police line.
According to the [Deputy Interior Minister](http://www.police.ge/en/curview.aspx?newsid=32805&categoryid=1), the demonstrations were peaceful, there were no arrests, and the international observers were happy.
There was a [2000-strong demonstration in Batumi](http://www.rferl.org/content/Tbilisi_Rally_Swells_But_Falls_Short_Of_Opposition_Hopes/1605668.html), [led](http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-04/09/content_11159620.htm) by Zurab Nogaideli, and [another in Poti](http://georgiandaily.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=10997&Itemid=133)
They also [agreed](http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=20690) to wait 24 hours before further action – supposedly to give the government a chance to respond.
Morning/day before: Democratic Movement – United Georgia [claim](http://english.aljazeera.net/news/europe/2009/04/20094992041682914.html) 60 activists arrested in Rustavi – [denied by government](http://police.ge/en/curview.aspx?newsid=32804&categoryid=1) Government, opposition [jointly commemorate](http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=20687) events on this day in 1989, when Soviet troops attacked demonstrators in Tbilisi, killing 20. [Claims](http://news-en.trend.az/politics/foreign/1453462.html) that the road into Tbilisi has been blocked aren’t true, says [government](http://twitter.com/govtofgeorgia/statuses/1482187143) and one [journalist](http://twitter.com/fieldreports/statuses/1482131852). Russia possibly [increasing troop levels](http://www.rferl.org/content/Russian_Troops_Entering_Abkhazias_Gali_Region_/1604998.html) in Abkhazia, with the protests as distraction. [Protest performance art](http://giorgipxacho.wordpress.com/2009/04/09/protester-profiles-artists-intellectuals-protest-in-advance-of-april-9th/) “Fighting for one chair”
How many demonstrators?

  • Compare these estimates to the 15,000 who protested in late 2007, or to the 100-150,000 hoped for by the organizers
  • Mosnews: “At 1:50, the number of participants was estimated at between 15,000 and 30,000″
  • RIA-Novosti: “Reporters in Tbilisi estimate that a total of 100,000 people have so far joined the rally,” (at 1533 local time)
  • Hotnews citing AFP: “At least 50,000 people”
  • Georgian govt. twitter: “crowd estimate from press reports vary between 20,000 to 40,000″
  • Le Monde: at least 50,000 outside Parliament by 1400 local time
  • Civil.ge: “Opposition leaders said over 100,000 people were gathered; but number of people gathered outside the Parliament is lower at about 3:30pm.”
  • Radio Netherlands (of all places): “more than 60,000 people”
  • Reuters initially reported 40,000, now upgraded to 60,000
  • Trend news: ‘over 30,000′
  • An assortment of claims
  • Georgian Daily: “More than 100,000″
  • Xinhua ” About 120,000 people”
  • These numbers may not match what is now on the linked pages; estimates are constantly being revised. They were accurate when I made each link
  • Civil.ge: according to deputy interior minister “police estimated around 25,000 protesters at the rally – the number, however, was higher than the official figure, but less than opposition’s estimation of over 100,000.”

Statements: Former president Shevardnadze: “there will be problems during the demonstration” (@zhvania). Interior minister [Vano Merabishvili](): ““There is no chance of a revolution in Georgia… but my mood tells me there will not be violence” .[Patriarch](http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5i_V-7z_ktt1ky6SaiTA42wCx6qpg) of the Georgian Orthodox Church: “I appeal to the Georgian army not to use force under any circumstances“. USA [State Department](http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=20685): “Peaceful protests are an important part of any democracy and an integral and acceptable way to express political views…The United States stands ready to sustain and deepen its support for… reforms“. [Salome Zurabishvili](http://www.rferl.org/content/Georgian_Opposition_Vows_To_Protest_As_Long_As_Needed_Until_President_Resigns/1604901.html): “it is the final test for the nation, and [everything] depends on the extent to which we are able to stand there calmly, prudently, and to the end“. EU presidency calls for “[maximum restraint](http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=20674)”; diplomats in Georgia for “[open dialogue](http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=20676)”
Blogs: [Global Voices](http://globalvoicesonline.org/2009/04/09/georgia-opposition-protests-2/) is summarizing. [Ketevan22](http://ketevan22.wordpress.com/) has some recent updates. A [photo-essay](http://alanaga.wordpress.com/2009/04/09/april-9-2009/)
World media coverage: [New York Times](http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/10/world/europe/10georgia.html?ref=global-home), [Guardian](http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/apr/09/georgia-protests-mikheil-saakashvili), [Le Monde](http://www.lemonde.fr/europe/article/2009/04/09/l-opposition-georgienne-dans-les-rues-de-tbilissi_1178592_3214.html), [Financial Times](http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/50b97e2a-24f8-11de-8a66-00144feabdc0.html), [BBC](http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7991026.stm). [Stratfor](http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/20090408_georgia_revolution_simmering)’s analysis is surprisingly good, although it over-emphasises Russia.
[German coverage](http://georgien.blogspot.com/2009/04/nachrichten-georgien-zehntausende.html): Focus, Spiegel, DW, sueddeutsche

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