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Georgia’s Foreign Agent Law Live | Protesters return to parliament after marching to Georgian Dream offices

3 May 2024
Protests against the foreign agent law in Tbilisi. Shota Kincha/OC Media.

An activist group has called protesters to gather outside a hotel hosting a major reception for the Asian Development Bank (ADB), to be attended by senior officials from around the world. On Thursday night, tens of thousands of protesters paralysed one of Tbilisi’s largest intersections.

Read more:

This article will be updated throughout the day. 

 

04 May 2024, 00:42

We’re ending our coverage for this evening. Join us again tomorrow for more on the mounting backlash to Georgia’s draft foreign agent law.

04 May 2024, 00:38

Protesters in Tbilisi vow to meet again Easter morning as thousands continue protest in front of parliament

Protesters in Tbilisi have vowed to renew their protests on Easter morning — Sunday — after lighting candles at Kashveti Church near parliament.

Thousands of people are still protesting in front of parliament.

Protesters against the draft foreign agent law lit candles at Kashveti Church near parliament. Image via Tabula.

04 May 2024, 00:27

Interior Ministry: protesters planned to frame police by staging violence

The Interior Ministry has accused organisers of the protests against the draft foreign agent law of planning to stage violence ‘as if from the side of law enforcement officers’ by dressing up as police officers and attacking other protesters. They claimed that those disguised as police officers would also stage a scene pretending to have ‘joined the protests’. 

03 May 2024, 23:07

Georgian Dream: no one could prove foreign agent law is ‘Russian or bad’

Georgian Dream has published the text of the draft foreign agent law in English through pro-government TV Imedi’s website.

They stated that the ‘focus has completely shifted to the rallies, and everyone has forgotten the main topic, which concerns the transparency law itself’.

‘To date, not a single opponent has been able to present an argument as to why the bill, or at least one of its clauses, can be “Russian” or bad’.

Protesters have dubbed the foreign agent law the ‘Russian law’ due to its similarity to legislation that was used to crush civil society and independent media in Russia.

03 May 2024, 23:01

Protesters return to parliament

Thousands of protesters have now returned to parliament after marching to Georgian Dream’s headquarters.

There appears to be a minor police presence on the side streets leading to the rear of parliament.

03 May 2024, 22:52

Michel: Georgian citizens’ call for an open democratic and pluralistic society must be heeded

EU Council President Charles Michel has said that he had a phone call with Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze to discuss the protests against the draft foreign agent law.

‘Georgia’s future belongs with the EU. Don’t miss this historic chance’, he wrote on X.

03 May 2024, 22:39

Papuashvili: an assault on parliament by ‘radical opposition parties and a group of NGOs’

In a post on X, parliamentary speaker Shalva Papuashvili accused protesters of mounting an ‘assault’ on parliament during the last week. 

He stated that police ‘only used force for securing the entrances to the Parliament or responded to the attempts of incursion inside the building’.

Papuashvili said that eight police officers were injured in the protest, with one undergoing an emergency surgical operation.

He went on to criticise ‘foreign embassies’ for referring to the protests as peaceful.

‘Regrettably, none of the foreign embassies and international donor organisations registered in Georgia condemned these violent episodes. Moreover, many of them repeatedly called the violent attacks “peaceful” ’, he said.

03 May 2024, 21:50

Protesters paralyse traffic on the right bank of River Mtkvari

The thousands of protesters marching to Georgian Dream’s headquarters in Old Tbilisi from Liberty Square have paralysed traffic in a section of the river embankment.

Protesters have paralysed traffic on the right bank of River Mtkvari. Robin Fabbro/OC Media.

 

03 May 2024, 21:42

Hacktivists doxed Georgian Dream MPs, alongside Anonymous takedown of government-linked sites

Hacktivists on social media earlier published phone numbers and addresses thought to belong to Georgian Dream MPs — Dimitri Samkharadze and parliamentary speaker Shalva Papuashvili. A dedicated Telegram channel also claimed to have doxxed the unidentified men who attacked protesters last night.

This comes after an X account linked to Anonymous claimed responsibility for taking down websites linked to the government, including those of Georgian Dream, pro-government Pos TV, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

03 May 2024, 21:38

Protests in Kutaisi

Protesters against the draft foreign agent law in Kutaisi, western Georgia, have marched from Meskhishvili Theatre in the city’s centre to the local Georgian Dream office.

Protesters against the foreign agent law in Kutaisi have marched from the city’s centre to the local Georgian Dream’s offices. Photo: KutaisiPost

03 May 2024, 21:24

Civil society organisations call on Georgian diplomats abroad to uphold Georgia’s pro-Western policy

More than 60 civil society organisations have issued a joint statement calling on Georgian ambassadors to uphold the country’s  ‘national interests and its pro-Western policy’ and to protest instead of carrying out ‘treacherous tasks’ assigned by the Georgian government.

03 May 2024, 21:23

Large crowd marches towards Georgian Dream office

Thousands of protesters are marching from Liberty Square down Baratashvili Street, reportedly towards the office of the ruling Georgian Dream party. Many cars are honking in solidarity, with some bystanders applauding.

Protesters marching down Baratashvili Street. Photo: Robin Fabbro/OC Media
A bystander applauding protesters. Photo: Robin Fabbro/OC Media

03 May 2024, 20:42

Protesters block Pushkin Street

Protesters against Georgia’s foreign agent law have blocked Pushkin Street, a major road in the centre of Tbilisi, outside the Ivanishvili-linked Paragraph Hotel where the Asian Development Bank is holding a major event.

03 May 2024, 20:35

Police reportedly arrest one protester

Police have reportedly detained one protester outside the Paragraph Tbilisi hotel, where the Asian Development Bank’s annual meeting is being held.

03 May 2024, 20:13

Thousands of protesters gather by Paragraph Hotel

Participants in the Asian Development Bank president’s reception wave at the thousands of protestors from the Paragraph Hotel in Tbilisi, with one guest later holding up an EU flag in solidarity.

03 May 2024, 19:39

Special forces buses and fire engines reportedly brought into Parliament yard

According to Mtavari, special forces buses and fire engines were seen entering the yard of Parliament around half an hour before tonight’s parliament protest was set to begin. 

Image via Mtavari

 

03 May 2024, 19:33

Zurabishvili vetoes offshore law

Georgia’s President Salome Zurabishvili has vetoed the controversial offshore law, that many government critics have suggested is aimed at protecting billionaire Georgian Dream founder and honorary chair Bidzina Ivanishvili from Western sanctions. 

[Read more: Georgian Dream eliminates taxes on offshore assets brought to Georgia]

The amendments were passed on 19 April, after being rushed through parliament.

03 May 2024, 19:05

Paragraph hotel protest begins

Protesters against Georgia’s foreign agent law are gathering outside the Paragraph hotel in Tbilisi, where a major Asian Development Bank (ADB) reception is being held. The hotel is linked to Georgian Dream founder Bidzina Ivanishvili.
A protester holding a sign. Photo: Robin Fabbro/OC Media

03 May 2024, 18:40

For Georgia: Georgian Dream’s actions ‘pose threat of civil strife’

For Georgia, an opposition party founded by former prime minister Giorgi Gakharia, has described yesterday’s attacks against protesters by unidentified persons as a ‘sign of fear and weakness’.

Men wearing black clothes acted aggressively towards a number of protesters at Heroes Square, injuring two. 

‘The recent actions of the [the ruling Georgian] Dream pose a real threat of civil strife’, the party stated, adding that people ‘should avoid’ that and change the government in the upcoming elections.

Soon after the attacks, local media published the serial numbers of the cars and identified several of the attackers.

03 May 2024, 18:04

Parliament protest announced

Dafioni, a youth activist group, has announced that protests against the foreign agent law will resume outside Georgia’s parliament at 19:00 today. 

The group indicated that they intend to protest the law and recent police brutality while respecting those marking Good Friday, two days before Easter. 

03 May 2024, 17:33

23 arrested at Heroes Square protest

Local media has cited the Interior Ministry confirming that 23 people were detained at last night’s anti-government protest on Heroes Square, all on charges of petty hooliganism and disobeying police. 

Among the detainees were Sandro Kerauli, a member of Georgian rock band Quemmekh, Bedford Falls guitarist Mikho Kalandarishvili, and queer rights activist Beka Gadabadze.

Police are reported to have arrested 63 protesters on 30 April-1 May, five on the night of 1-2 May, and 23 on the night of 2-3 May.

03 May 2024, 17:15

Government allocates money to combat ‘anti-Western disinformation’

Georgia’s government has allocated ₾500,000 ($187,000) to combating ‘anti-Western disinformation’, in a decree publicised today by RFE/RL. Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze signed the decree on Tuesday. This amount will be allocated to the information centre about NATO and the European Union to run a campaig naimed at  ‘[increasing] resistance against anti-Western disinformation’.

 

03 May 2024, 15:31

Mayor Kaladze doubles down after insulting journalist

Tbilisi Mayor and Secretary General of Georgian Dream Kakha Kaladze defended his calling a Formula reporter ‘‘insolent scum’ by saying that he is ‘always in defence mode’.

‘Today is World Press Freedom Day and first of all I want to congratulate you’, he told journalists today. ‘Freedom and independence do not mean insulting a person, calling them brazen’.

‘I’m always in defence mode’, he said. ‘If there is an insult towards me, trust me that the same will be returned to you’.

Kaladze insulted the journalist yesterday, after she questioned him about the alleged use of rubber bullets against protesters at a demonstration against the foreign agent bill on 1–2 May, implying that the mayor was ‘brazenly’ lying to citizens.

While leaving the scene, Kalaze was also reportedly heard calling the reporter a ‘cunt’ (ყლექალი, lit. ‘dickwoman’). 

03 May 2024, 14:54

Tbilisi accuses Paris of ‘lack of objectivity’ over criticism of excessive police force

The Foreign Ministry has criticised France’s Foreign Ministry’s statement about Georgian police’s violent dispersal of protesters in Tbilisi.

‘Georgian law enforcement officers, except for a few unfortunate incidents, acted in accordance with the highest standards of human rights’, the Georgian ministry stated. ‘However, we regret that your statement lacks objectivity’.

‘We remind you that the Georgian authorities refrained from issuing critical statements against France even when law enforcement officers in Paris confronted protesters with brutal methods completely inconsistent with universal standards of human rights’, they said, echoing a similar statement Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze made about his meeting with US State Department Counselor Derek Chollet, in which he said that he ‘did not express his concern’ over the US police’s dispersal of pro-Palestine protesters in American universities.

The speaker of the parliament, Shalva Papuashvili, also stated today that ‘some statements from both the embassies in Georgia and some foreign actors are disappointing’.

‘This somewhat creates the perception that a false narrative is being established as if there was a peaceful demonstration and it was violently stopped. Everyone saw what was really happening and, among them, saw the results of the attack on the parliament building, which we observed during the night before yesterday’.

Papuashvili called on ‘international actors’, and ‘especially the embassies’, ‘to understand the situation, including communicating with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and then drawing conclusions and making statements’.

03 May 2024, 13:45

Protest to be held outside Ivanishvili-linked hotel 

Pro-democracy civil movement Shame has called on people to demonstrate outside the Paragraph Tbilisi hotel as it hosts a reception for the Asian Development Bank’s annual meeting. Paragraph is linked to Bidzina Ivanishvili, the billionaire founder and honorary chair of the ruling Georgian Dream party.

03 May 2024, 13:39

RSF: ‘No other country in the region has fallen as much as Georgia in the ranking for 10 years’

Georgia has fallen 26 places on the Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) World Press Freedom Index, ranking Georgia 103rd out of 180 countries — a sharp drop from its position of 77 in 2023.

[Read more: Georgia falls 26 places on World Press Freedom Index to 103rd in world]

RSF’s Head of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia Desk, Jeanne Cavalier, has warned of a ‘very worrying trend showing a growing authoritarianism’ in Georgia with the ruling Georgian Dream party’s reintroduction of the foreign agent law.

‘RSF calls the Georgian authorities to pull themself together and to withdraw the bill which could have dramatic consequences for journalists and the press freedom environment’, she told OC Media.

RSF released their annual World Press Freedom Index on Friday to coincide with World Press Freedom Day.

03 May 2024, 13:30

Public Defender visits detainees

The Public Defender’s Office reported on Friday that they had met with ten people detained at the protests on administrative charges.

‘All people reporting abuse/excessive use of force will be forwarded to the Special Investigation Service’, read their statement.

03 May 2024, 13:14

Prime Minister accuses US Embassy of ‘supporting revolution’

Georgia’s Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze has written on X that he expressed his ‘sincere disappointment’ with ‘the two revolution attempts of 2020-2023 supported by the former US Ambassador’ and NGOs that were ‘financed from external sources’ while speaking to US State Department Counselor Derek Chollet. 

‘Had these attempts been successful, the second front line would have been opened in Georgia’, wrote Kobakhidze. 


On Thursday, Chollet wrote that he had expressed ‘concern’ regarding the Georgian Government’s ‘hostile rhetoric and support of antidemocratic legislation’, and called on Georgia to ‘recommit’ to a Euro-Atlantic trajectory. 

In 2023, Georgia’s government and State Security Service (SSG) accused the US Agency for International Development (USAID) of ‘preparing people for disorder and to provoke violence’.

[Read more: Georgia’s ruling party accuse USAID of preparing activists for revolution]

03 May 2024, 12:32

Key events from yesterday

On Thursday night, tens of thousands of protesters paralysed Heroes Square, one of Tbilisi’s largest and busiest intersections. While police attempted to disperse protesters, arresting an as yet unconfirmed number, the intersection remained blocked until early on Friday morning. 

Demonstrators report that those arrested include Bedford Falls guitarist Mikho Kalandarishvili and musician Quemmekh. 

In the early hours of Friday morning, a group of men in black outfits attacked some of the protesters remaining on Heroes’ Square, injuring at least two. 

A number of senior international officials condemned the Georgian Government’s passing of the foreign agent law in its second plenary hearing, as well as police violence against protesters. The law is set to go to a third and final hearing in the week of 13 May.

Protesters on Heroes' Square on 2 May. Photo: Anna Edgar/OC Media