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Georgia’s Foreign Agent Law Live | Tens of thousands of protesters hit the streets

11 May 2024
Tens of thousands gathered on Tbilisi's Europe Square on 11 May. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

Protests against Georgia’s draft foreign agent law are continuing amidst an escalating campaign of violence and harassment against opponents of the bill.

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11 May 2024, 23:16

We’re ending our coverage of Georgia’s draft foreign agent law for today. Join us in the coming days, when the bill is expected to receive its third and final reading in parliament.

11 May 2024, 23:09

Overnight protest announced for tomorrow 

The demonstration in Tbilisi has come to an end.

Speakers at the protest urged the public to reassemble tomorrow and spend the night in front of parliament, to protest the ruling party’s decision to continue hearings on the foreign agent bill on Monday morning. 

11 May 2024, 22:10

Demonstration on Europe Square underway

There has been a massive turnout at the demonstration on Tbilisi’s Europe Square, which is currently underway.

11 May 2024, 21:27

Former Georgian Dream MPs announce opposition to foreign agent law

Sixteen former Georgian Dream MPs have jointly appealed to the ruling party to immediately stop considering the draft foreign agent law, which they said ‘artificially weaves fractures in society’.  

‘This bill serves not the interest of transparency but demonising those countries that have for decades aided in our transition to a democratic and developed state [and] remain guarantors of our sovereignty and security to this day’, the statement read. 

11 May 2024, 21:21

Central Tbilisi paralysed

Traffic data from Google Maps show the extent to which traffic has been blocked on central thoroughfares throughout Tbilisi as large protest marches continue to converge.

11 May 2024, 20:52

Protesters converge on Europe Square

The highways along both banks of the River Mtkvari have been blocked as tens of thousands of protesters converge on Europe Square.

11 May 2024, 19:59

Opposition groups: No amendments to the bill, only unconditional withdrawal 

Seven major opposition parties — the United National Movement, Strategy Aghmashenebeli, Lelo, Girchi, Droa, Ahali, and the Republican Party — have issued a joint statement asserting that they will not accept ‘cosmetic changes’ to the foreign agent bill, in light of recent comments by the ruling party’s leaders. 

‘Because of this Russian initiative of [ruling party founder Bidzina] Ivanishvili’s, a big part of our society fell victim to psychological and physical terror [...] not only from criminal gangs mobilised by the state but also from police.’ 

‘Ivanishvili has made political repression a part of people’s daily lives; Georgia’s international image has already gravely suffered; our European and Euro-Atlantic future is under attack. Therefore, we, the democratic opposition, will not accept a beautified version of the Russian law. This bill cannot be improved and should be revoked unconditionally’, the statement read. 

Today, Georgian Dream chair Irakli Garibashvili and parliamentary speaker Shalva Papuashvili suggested that there would be room to amend the bill after its adoption if President Salome Zourabichvili vetoed it, as she has previously promised to do. 

11 May 2024, 19:26

Protest marches begin in Tbilisi

Protesters are beginning to march from four points in Tbilisi towards Europe Square. A parents’ march began along Tsereteli Avenue over an hour ago, with marches now beginning from Marjanishvili Square, 300 Aragveli metro station, and Rustaveli metro station.

Protesters gathering by Marjanishvili metro. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media

11 May 2024, 19:02

Berlin protest march begins against Georgia’s foreign agent bill 

At least hundreds are marching in central Berlin in protest against Georgia’s foreign agent draft law. The march is one of at least 10 international protests taking place today, with others set to be held in London, New York, Geneva, Florence, Munich, Warsaw, and Amsterdam. 

11 May 2024, 17:27

Homes of rights defenders and their families defaced 

The homes of more opposition figures, rights defenders, and their families have reportedly been defaced with posters and graffiti condemning them. 

Former public defender Ucha Nanuashvili was amongst those targeted, writing on X that his building was ‘vandalised’ with posters featuring his image, and phrases including ‘Ucha Nanuashvili is a foreign agent’, ‘Soros-financed’, and ‘No place for agents in Georgia. 

Nanuashvili added that he received threatening phone calls at 2am, and had done for two days previously. 

Others reportedly targeted in the past day include former public defender Nino Lomjaria, Tbilisi Pride co-director Mariam Kvaratskhelia, law professor Giorgi Meladze, poet and translator Rati Amaglobeli, and detained blogger Ucha Abashidze.

Giorgi Meladze's car. Photo: Giorgi Meladze/Facebook
The car of Giorgi Meladze. Photo: Giorgi Meladze/Facebook
'Ucha = [penis] agent'. Photo via thisisandro/X

11 May 2024, 16:40

TSU students announce strike 

A group of Tbilisi State University (TSU) students have announced a strike, stating that they will stop attending lectures from next week. 

‘We’ve decided to refuse to enter classrooms starting from Monday. We’ll be standing on Rustaveli [Avenue] from 09:00 and will oppose the attempt to legalise a Putinist dictatorship at a legislative level’.

‘The illegitimate and brutal raids on peaceful demonstrations in the streets of Tbilisi have become permanent and severe in recent weeks’, the students said. ‘Thugs hired by the government ambush, attack and mutilate political opponents near their homes. They terrorise everyone who disagrees with the Russian policy of the regime.’

They called on lecturers and students of other universities to do the same and join their efforts to oppose the draft law.

‘Georgia will not become Russia’, they stated. 

Students making the announcement. Image via TV Pirveli

11 May 2024, 16:02

Unions join movement against the foreign agent law

‘Labor’, a union of agriculture, trade, and industry workers, have announced that they are preparing for a ‘mass general strike’ in a video address published on their Facebook page.

‘Consider this a warning’, said the union’s spokesperson. 

They stated that the union opposes the draft law, and urged workers in other fields to unite and ‘end the madness that is happening’ in Georgia. 

‘We want a European future’, they said.

Members of Labor making the announcement. Screengrab via Labor/Facebook

 

11 May 2024, 15:02

Bus full of police officers attack man in the streets

Footage published by eyewitnesses on Friday evening has shown a group of police officers beating up a man in his car. The footage shows riot police officers exiting a police bus before attacking the man.

Irakli Tsignadze was detained and then discharged this morning. 

Tsignadze said in a post on Facebook that the incident occurred due to a traffic disagreement.

‘I was driving up Leonidze Street, and a bus stopped in front of me. I stopped to let them pass. They could have easily gone by without any issue, but they insisted I give way. So they [were insisting] I reverse because they didn’t want to go around’, he wrote. 

He said officers then exited the bus and began swearing, to which he swore back, after which several of them began hitting him.

He concluded his post by speaking up against the draft foreign agent law.

The Interior Ministry released a statement which appeared to attempt to justify the police violence. They stated Tsignadze was intoxicated and ‘ignored multiple requests of the law enforcement officers to let them pass’. 

They said the case had been forwarded to the Special Investigation Service, which is supposed to investigate police misconduct.

11 May 2024, 14:38

US ‘deeply alarmed about democratic backsliding in Georgia’

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has said the administration is ‘deeply alarmed about democratic backsliding in Georgia’

‘Georgian Dream’s recent rhetoric, proposed legislative changes, and actions go against the aspirations of the Georgian people and are designed to isolate Georgians from the United States and Europe’, he added.

Sullivan also appeared to support the popular protests against the draft foreign agent law, adding that ‘we stand with the Georgian people’.

11 May 2024, 14:34

Detained blogger’s wife arrested

Police have detained the wife of popular military blogger Ucha Abashidze, who was himself arrested on Thursday evening, her lawyer Shota Tutberidze has confirmed. Ucha Abashidze has been an outspoken critic of the foreign agent bill.

The Public Defender’s Office stated yesterday that Abashidze had reported being subjected to psychological pressure and verbal abuse in detention.

11 May 2024, 14:21

Activist’s 73-year-old father attacked

The 73-year-old father of Tbilisi Pride co-director Ana Subeliani has been attacked, she reported on Facebook

Images of her father posted by Subeliani.

Co-director Mariam Kvaratskhelia also reported that the entrance to her bloc of flats was defaced. The group’s former director, Giorgi Tabagari, said people visited his father’s cars home vandelising his father’s cars and putting up posters targeting him. 

Images of the entrance of her apartment building published by Mariam Kvaratskhelia.
Images posted by Giorgi Tabagari of his father’s home.

It comes amidst a series of similar attacks on activists, opposition politicians and public figures who have spoken against the draft law.

11 May 2024, 14:20

Welcome to our live updates on Georgia’s draft foreign agent law for Saturday, 11 May.

Reports of attacks on opponents to the bill continue to come in as domestic and international pressure on the ruling party steps up.

This evening, a large protest is planned in the capital Tbilisi.