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Georgia’s Foreign Agent Law Live | Police use tear gas and water cannons against protesters

1 May 2024
A makeshift bonfire set up by protesters against the foreign agent law by the Georgian Parliament. Shota Kincha/OC Media.

Georgia’s foreign agent law has passed its second reading in parliament as Tbilisi braces for another night of mass protests against the controversial bill. Last night, the police violently dispersed protesters using tear gas, stun grenades, and water cannons.

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This article will be updated throughout the day.

02 May 2024, 06:06

We’re wrapping up our live updates for now. Join us later today for more on Georgia’s draft foreign agent law.

You can read a summary of today’s events here: Protesters besiege Georgian Parliament after foreign agent bill passes second reading

Early morning outside the Georgian Parliament on 2 May. Photo: Robin Fabbro/OC Media.

02 May 2024, 04:38

Hundreds of police officers are now present in front of parliament facing crowds of protesters pushed down from the sides of parliament.

Police have moved from Liberty Square to parliament. Robin Fabbro/OC Media.

02 May 2024, 04:26

Protest ongoing as hundreds continue to surround parliament

Hundreds of protesters are still gathered around parliament, with some having set up a barricade at the building’s left side entrance, where they were also seen throwing fireworks at riot police stationed in the building’s courtyard.

On the right side, protesters threw objects at the police after they attempted to push them away from the gate using water cannons.

02 May 2024, 03:00

Mdinaradze: Khabeishvili goaded the police into attacking him

Georgian Dream’s parliamentary leader Mamuka Mdinaradze has accused Levan Khabeishvili, a chair of the opposition United National Movement, of instigating an attack on the police, leading to him getting severely beaten.

‘Looking at his damaged face is very unpleasant’, Mdinaradze said. ‘We must say once and for all that any form of violence is unacceptable, but in the meantime we must also say that he [Levan Khabeishvili] was not attacked, he himself was the instigator of the attack, he ran into a group of policemen and what happened there the investigation must say’.

Mdinaradze added that ‘police officers are also human. If the mothers of these brave lads were cursed, it’s terrible, how can they remain patient?’ 

02 May 2024, 01:03

A person plays a trumpet outside the Georgian Parliament, where police continue to deploy tear gas and water cannons against protesters.

02 May 2024, 00:50

Norwegian Foreign Ministry ‘concerned by reports of disproportionate force’

The Norwegian Foreign Minsitry has said they are ‘deeply concerned by reports of disproportionate use of force against peaceful protesters in Tbilisi.’

02 May 2024, 00:38

Protesters are continuing to return to the side entrance of parliament, attempting to block the water cannons used by riot police.

02 May 2024, 00:18

Interior Ministry denies use of rubber bullets

Deputy Interior Minister Aleksandre Darakhvelidze, has held a press conference in which he blamed protesters for this evening’s violence, and denied that police have used rubber bullets.

He added that the conditions for the legal use of rubber bullets had been met, but again denied they had been used.

Images of protesters with injuries consistent with rubber bullets, including one with an eye injury have emerged online, as well as images of rubber bullets found on the ground. 

Darakhvelidze also accused protesters of ‘artificially blocking’ a road. 

Several thousand protesters moved to the Zviad Gamsakhurdia Right Bank after police deployed tear gas outside parliament.

Darakhvelidze also said protesters used tear gas, and vowed to discover where they had obtained it.

01 May 2024, 23:55

At least one protester reported with eye injury

At least one protester has been filmed with an eye injury, reportedly from the use of rubber bullets. 

Photo: Tabula.

The use of rubber bullets has been reported by several media outlets, with some showing bullets found in the street. 

Images of several other protesters with injuries to their bodies consistent with those from rubber bullets have also emerged.

Police are continuing to use pepper spray, water cannons, stun grenades and tear gas against protesters.

01 May 2024, 23:14

President calls on protesters to refrain from physical violence

President Salome Zourabichvili has called on those protesting against the foreign agent law in Tbilisi to leave the parliament’s gates untouched.

‘I want to appeal to those warm-hearted young people who are sharing their energy with us at this level today [and tell them that] some things are not necessary, leave the doors of the parliament [alone], nothing is happening there anymore, this law has already been passed its second reading’, she said.

‘Our fight is going through the elections, the cancellation of all the laws passed recently by this government and which, one after the other, separate us from the European path […] Let’s be peaceful on Rustaveli Avenue, where we will once again show the world what Georgia and Georgian youth can do’.

01 May 2024, 23:07

Von der Leyen condemns violence against protesters 

Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, has condemned the Georgian police’s use of excessive force to disperse protesters.

01 May 2024, 23:02

Reports of rubber bullets

There have been widespread reports that riot police have deployed rubber bullets against protesters. Media have reported that a minor has been injured after being hit by a rubber bullet 

Their use in Georgia has been highly controversial since the 2019 Gavrilov’s Night protests, when several people were partially blinded after being hit in the face.

Read more: Voice | ‘What I hate the most is the injustice of it’

01 May 2024, 22:57

Riot police continue to deploy tear gas

Riot police continue to use tear gas and water cannons from within parliament to disperse protesters, who continue to return to the building’s gates.

01 May 2024, 22:40

Riot police regroup on Freedom Square

Riot police have gathered on Freedom Square and appear to be preparing to march down Rustaveli Avenue in the direction of the protesters.

01 May 2024, 22:28

Riot police deploy tear gas and water cannons

Riot police have deployed tear gas to disperse crowds around parliament.

They have also used pepper spray and water cannons to push protesters away from one of the parliament’s side entrances

01 May 2024, 21:57

Tens of thousands of protesters remain in front of parliament

Tens of thousands of protesters against the foreign agent draft law are still in front of the Georgian Parliament. They are joined by protesters from other Georgian regions.

01 May 2024, 21:25

Police confirm withdrawing from parliament after vacating MPs

The Interior Ministry has confirmed that it withdrew units from parliament after vacating MPs from the building.

They called on protesters to ‘not violate the law, to protest in a peaceful manner, and not to carry out violent actions.’

01 May 2024, 21:03

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01 May 2024, 20:58

Protesters surround parliament as police withdraw from side streets

Police have withdrawn from the side entrances of parliament. It is unclear whether MPs are still in the building.

01 May 2024, 20:46

Speaker calls for ‘siege’ of parliament

A speaker at the protest has called for people to surround the parliament building and place it under ‘siege’. Protesters have already gathered at several of the entrances, with police maintaining control of at least one.

01 May 2024, 20:40

Opposition MPs call for government not to attack protesters

After the draft foreign agent law passed its second reading, a group of opposition MPs held a press briefing in which they demanded the government not attack the protesters outside.

‘Those 83 MPs [who voted for the bill] signed the “treason act”. An hour earlier, [Prime Minister] Irakli Kobakhidze announced the brutal treatment of our citizens because he told lies and painted a revolutionary scenario that does not exist’, said independent MP Tamar Kordzaia.

‘Every citizen outside today is guarding this country, [its] European choice, therefore, if something happens to any of them today, Irakli Kobakhidze and those 83 MPs will be personally responsible’, they said.

01 May 2024, 20:17

Foreign agent law passes second reading

The bill has passed its second reading in parliament with 83 MPs voting for it and 23 against.

01 May 2024, 19:42

Interior Ministry warns protesters against ‘paralysing traffic’ and blocking entrances to parliament

The Interior Ministry issued a statement warning demonstrators and organisers not to block roads during the protest.

They also warned protesters against blocking entrances to parliament and administrative buildings.

‘We urge protesters not to take illegal actions and not to make calls that could lead to violent actions’, they said.

01 May 2024, 19:15

Heavy police presence around parliament as protesters begin gathering

The protesters against the draft foreign agent law have begun gathering around the Parliament of Georgia in larger numbers. There is a heavy police presence around the building and surrounding areas, with riot police being deployed on Freedom Square just off Rustaveli Avenue.

Protesters against the foreign agent law gathering in front of parliament in Tbilisi. Anna Edgar/OC Media.

01 May 2024, 19:03

PM Irakli Kobakhidze justifies police violence, says foreign agent bill would  curb violent protests

In a press conference just before the beginning of today’s protest against the draft foreign agent law, Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze said that it was better to ‘see a few violent protests organised by the radical opposition now than to leave Georgia in a so-called closed circle of radicalism and polarisation’.

He added that the controversial foreign agent draft law would contribute to ‘asserting state sovereignty and to […] preventing the violent protests of the political minority we saw yesterday’.

He called on Georgians to separate themselves from the ‘violent actions’ of the opposition, ‘who are completely dictated by narrow-party and anti-state motives’.

Kobakhidze thanked the Interior Ministry and police for managing to ‘prevent violence and protect public safety as much as possible’ despite ‘large-scale violence and abuse’ by the protesters.

‘During the dissolution of the protest, several unfortunate incidents were reported’, he said. ‘Unfortunately, violence begets violence’.

His statement comes after several civil society organisations warned that the police used excessive force to violently disperse yesterday’s protest. Footage filmed around parliament showed riot police assaulting protesters, both physically and verbally, and deploying tear gas, stun grenades, pepper spray, and water cannons against protesters.

01 May 2024, 17:56

Former Georgian Dream PM calls on government to drop foreign agent law

Former prime minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili criticised the government for its crackdown on protesters yesterday.

Kvirikashvili, who served as prime minister in 2015–2018, said that adopting the foreign agent draft law would force the government to ‘pay a big political price’.

‘There is still time to adjust the government’s actions significantly. Seeing each person brutally beaten at the rallies evokes strong associations to a pre-2012 reality’, he wrote on Facebook, referring to the United National Movement’s crackdown on protesters during their rule.

‘All parties should try their best to maintain stability and not allow violence to avoid an irreparable outcome, the risk of which is quite high and for which the government will be responsible’.

01 May 2024, 17:31

Georgia’s opposition groups call on supporters to join today’s protest against the foreign agent law

The United National Movement (UNM), Lelo, Ahali, Strategy Aghmashenebeli, Droa, and Girchi — More Freedom, have issued a joint statement calling on their supporters to protest against the foreign agent law in front of parliament today.

The statement, read by independent MP Tamar Kordzaia behind parliament today, condemned the police’s attack on protesters and politicians, including UNM Chair Levan Khabeishvili.

‘[Khabeishvili] was kidnapped by special forces and beaten in front of a television camera. He has a concussion, broken nose, and facial bones. This violent attack on a political opponent is a criminal act and all those involved in it must be punished’.

01 May 2024, 16:44

Sports players show support 

At least four Georgian rugby, including members of the national team, condemned police violence against protesters in yesterday’s protest.

Beka Burjanadze, a basketball player who played for the national team, shared footage showing special forces physically assaulting demonstrators. ‘Such beating — oppression — the doom of our own people unfortunately says a lot about us as a society’, he wrote on his story.

01 May 2024, 16:01

Two more opposition members expelled from hearing

Two more opposition members have been expelled from today’s plenary hearing of the foreign agent draft law. United National Movement (UNM) MPs Tina Bokuchava and Giorgi Botkoveli were ejected for speaking without microphones and, in Bokuchava’s case, allegedly insulting an MP.

Strategy Aghmashenebeli’s Tako Charkviani and UNM’s Salome Samadashvili were earlier expelled. 

Bokuchava and Botkoveli. Photographs via Netgazeti

01 May 2024, 15:22

Kaladze: being a minor does not justify violence

Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze has told journalists that being a minor ‘does not justify’ violence.

‘If you are a minor, more is required of you: you must be polite, you must not insult police officers’, said Kaladze, according to IPN. ‘Protest peacefully, who’s stopping you? What’s the problem?’

Earlier today, Kaladze praised the actions of police at Tuesday night’s protest, and thanked them for ‘restoring order, eliminating violence, and preventing riots’. Police use of force at the protest was condemned by rights groups as being illegitimate, disproportionate, and ‘amounting to torture’.

01 May 2024, 14:40

Kubilius: this is Putin and Lukashenka’s path

MEP and former Prime Minister of Lithuania, Andrius Kubilius, has accused Ivanishvili of following ‘the same path’ as Russian President Putin and Belarusian President Lukashenka. 

‘First: brutal force against peaceful demonstrations, then the establishment of a dictatorship’, wrote Kubilius. 

01 May 2024, 14:23

Rights organisations: Police actions amounted to torture

Nine Georgian civil society organisations have assessed police use of force against protesters in Tbilisi on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday as ‘illegitimate and disproportionate’. 

It noted that police fired tear gas and pepper spray at close range without prior warning, beaten and kicked protesters, and noted that some media had reported the use of rubber bullets, although such reports remain unconfirmed. 

‘According to the participants of the demonstration, they did not have enough space to leave the area where the police used pepper spray and physical force against the demonstrators’, the statement reads. ‘The special forces beat a number of people at the rally, and physically assaulted them, including young people, women, journalists, and opposition politicians’. 

A protester recovers after police began dispersing protesters. Photo: Shota Kincha/OC Media.

‘We have already visited more than 15 detainees, most of whom are beaten, which indicates abuse of authority by the police’, the statement noted, adding that the whereabouts of some detainees remained unclear. 

‘The physical force used amounted to torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, and the practice of administrative detention was used to excessively restrict freedom of assembly.’

01 May 2024, 14:12

Mediaombudsman: 10 media workers targeted by the police

Mediaombudsman, a Georgian media rights group, has announced that ten journalists and camera operators were targets of police violence while covering the protest of 30 April-1 May. 

Those targeted include employees of TV Priveli, Publika, iFact, and Cnews Exclusive, all of whom were prevented from fulfilling their professional duties, with some deliberately directly pepper-sprayed.

01 May 2024, 13:45

Protest to resume at 17:00 

Activist groups have announced that protests against the foreign agent bill will resume behind the parliament from 17:00.

01 May 2024, 13:38

Opposition MPs expelled

Two opposition MPs, Tako Charkviani and Salome Samadashvili, have been expelled from today’s plenary session by parliamentary speaker Shalva Papuashvili. Samadashvili was expelled after asking a question regarding Russian far-right political philosopher Aleksandr Dugin, who has praised the government’s legislative initiatives in recent weeks. 

Charkviani (left) and Samadashvili, speaking after being expelled. Photos via IPN

01 May 2024, 13:01

Josep Borell condemns violent dispersal

Josep Borrell Fontelles, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, has condemned police violence against people protesting the foreign agent bill in Tbilisi. 

‘Georgia is an EU candidate country, I call on its authorities to ensure the right to peaceful assembly. Use of force to suppress it is unacceptable’, he wrote on X. 

01 May 2024, 12:55

Plenary session resumes amidst confrontation

The second plenary hearing of the draft foreign agent law has resumed amidst verbal confrontations between MPs, and claims of physical altercation.

On Tuesday, only three out of 11 articles in the draft law were discussed, with parliamentary majority leader Mamuka Mdinaradze stating that the second plenary reading could take ‘two or three days’. 

Prior to today’s session, opposition MPs confronted ruling party representatives, with MPs Ana Natsvlishvili and Ana Tsitlidze separately berating majority lawmakers for yesterday’s police violence against protesters. 

MP Teona Akubardia also claimed that ruling party MPs were ‘throwing bottles’ at female MPs in parliament. 

United National Movement chair Levan Khabeishvili, who was allegedly beaten by police while protesting, speaking in parliament today. Screengrab via IPN

01 May 2024, 12:45

MEP von Cramon: ‘Sanction Ivanishvili’

MEP and European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee member Viola von Cramon condemned the move, calling for the EU to cut funds to the Georgian government and ‘organise sanctions against Bidzina Ivanishvili as soon as possible’. 

‘No more violence and brutality against peaceful protesters’, said von Cramon in a separate tweet. ‘Tell them to withdraw from the Russian Law - no more nice projects & happy pics with [Georgian] officials.’

01 May 2024, 12:35

EU enlargement director general to visit Georgia

European Commission Director General for Neighbourhood & Enlargement Negotiations, Gert Jan Koopman, will today be in Georgia to discuss EU-Georgia cooperation and Georgia’s EU candidate status. He is scheduled to meet officials including President Salome Zourabichvili and Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze, as well as civil society and opposition representatives.

01 May 2024, 11:50

Editorial: Ivanishvili’s dark vision for Georgia’s future

Speaking at a government rally on Monday, Bidzina Ivanishvili set out a bleak vision for Georgia’s future. In an unhinged rant filled with conspiracy theories and threats of repression, Georgia’s ruling oligarch made clear he will not tolerate dissent — from within or from abroad.

Read more:

01 May 2024, 10:17

Interior ministry briefing: 63 protesters detained

Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Aleksandre Darakhvelidze has announced that 63 people were detained while protesting on Tuesday night, on charges of petty hooliganism and disobeying police. 

He added that a criminal investigation had been launched into the injury of six police officers. 

Darakhvelidze also suggested that UNM chair Levan Khabeishvili’s injury at the protest was attributable to ‘interfering’ with police activities and breaking a police cordon. Khabeishvili, who is currently in hospital following facial surgery, appeared on camera with a bloody face and missing teeth after allegedly being beaten by police.

01 May 2024, 10:06

Batumi opposition to join Tbilisi protests

Representatives of civil society organisations and political parties as well as unaffiliated citizens from Batumi have announced that they will travel to Tbilisi today to join the protests against the foreign agent law. The decision was announced in the early hours of Wednesday morning, in light of the police crackdown against protesters in the capital. 

Otar Katamadze, a director and actor, was one of the group who announced that they would meet at Europe Square at noon and travel to Tbilisi in a convoy. 

‘We will be joined by Samegrelo, Guria, Imereti, and the whole of Georgia will be on Rustaveli [Avenue] tomorrow’, said Katamadze, according to Batumelebi. ‘Ivanishvili's speech yesterday angered the people even more, he is going to repress and lead the country to a dictatorship. A free Georgian citizen will not accept this.’

Batumi City Council member Vazha Darchia similarly called on people to join at noon. 

‘I call on the people of Batumi, the whole of Adjara, the whole of Georgia, everyone who has seen what the Georgian Dream and Bidzina Ivanishvili have done, we must all protect the European future of this country together’, said Darchia.

01 May 2024, 09:52

Ombudsman visits injured politicians in hospital

Public Defender Levan Ioseliani visited detained politicians Levan Khabeishvili and party member Sofo Japaridze at the Ingorokva clinic, both of whom claim they were beaten by riot police. Ioseliani announced that he had sent information regarding their cases to the Special Investigative Service, which is tasked with dealing with abuse of force by public servants. 

MP Aleko Elisashvili of the Citizens party, who gained public attention on 15 April for punching parliamentary majority leader Mamuka Mdinaradze during a discussion of the foreign agent law, was reportedly also beaten during the demonstration.

01 May 2024, 09:46

Online media again banned from parliament

Parliament has extended the ban on journalists from online media outlets entering parliament, as the second plenary hearing of the foreign agent bill continues. Online media have been refused parliamentary accreditation by the decision of Speaker Shalva Papuashvili for over two weeks, allegedly in the interests of ‘security’. 

Journalists from TV media who have parliamentary accreditation are allowed inside the parliament.

01 May 2024, 09:27

Levan Khabeishvili remains in hospital 

Levan Khabeishvili, the chair of the opposition United National Movement party, remains in hospital following facial surgery for injuries incurred after being beaten by riot police early on Wednesday morning. 

Kakha Chelidze, Clinical Director of the Ingorokva Hospital, told Interpressnews that doctors ‘strictly recommend’ that the opposition leader remains in hospital for the time being. 

Khabeishvili claimed tens of police officers beat him at the protest.

Levan Khabeishvili. Photo via social media

01 May 2024, 09:15

Key events from yesterday

Thousands protested outside Georgia’s parliament into the early hours of Wednesday morning, despite police attempts to disperse them using water cannons, tear gas, stun grenades, and brute force. Video footage shows protesters being beaten by police. 

A number of protesters were detained, including the chair of the United National Movement (UNM) Levan Khabeishvili. Speaking after his detention, Khabeishvili appeared bloody and beaten, with several teeth missing. 

Two protesters were detained in Zugdidi, west Georgia. 

The second plenary hearing of the draft foreign agent law began amidst confrontation in parliament, with opposition MPs condemning the ruling party’s rhetoric at its rally on Monday night.