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Georgia’s Foreign Agent Law Live | Protesters occupy Heroes Square

2 May 2024
Protesters on Hero’s Square in Tbilisi. Photo: Shota Kincha/OC Media.
Protests are expected to resume, following a night in which tear gas and water cannons were used against protesters after the bill passed its second plenary reading.

Read more:

This article will be updated throughout the day. 

03 May 2024, 03:30

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.

03 May 2024, 02:15

A group of unidentified men in black outfits has attacked some of the protesters remaining on Hero’s Square, injuring at least two. 

Footage of the incident via Formula.

Protesters told local media the men drove up in several cars before around 25 of them got out and started punching and kicking protesters. They then reportedly drove away.

03 May 2024, 00:28

Moldovan President ‘stands with the people of Georgia’

The President of Moldova, Maia Sandu, has expressed solidarity with the protesters in Georgia, writing people ‘who show unwavering courage and a deep commitment to democracy and freedom’.

Giorgi Gakharia, former PM and leader of the opposition For Georgia party, thanked Sandu, vowing to ‘bring [the] Country back on a right democratic, European track!’

Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova, applied for EU membership soon after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Unlike Ukraine and Moldova, Georgia was not immediately granted candidate status, but received it later in December 2023.

03 May 2024, 00:00

Rustaveli Avenue remains blocked

Tbilisi’s central Rustaveli Avenue remains blocked outside parliament, where several hundred protesters remain.

Photo: Robin Fabbro/OC Media.

Thousands are continuing to demonstrate on Hero’s Square.

Hero’s Square. Photo: Shota Kincha/OC Media.

02 May 2024, 23:01

UN Human Rights Commissioner condemns ‘unnecessary and disproportionate use of force’

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, has expressed concern over the ‘unnecessary and disproportionate use of force’ by police over the past few days.

02 May 2024, 22:56

‘Large-scale manifestation’ announced for 11 May

One of the organisers of the demonstrations has announced ‘a large-scale manifestation’ on 11 May in front of the Parliament. The draft law is expected to receive it’s third and final hearing in parliament during the week of 13 May.

02 May 2024, 22:52

Georgian Foreign Ministry says PM refused meeting with US due to ‘preconditions’

Georgia’s Foreign Ministry has stated that Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze refused an invition to the US because the US had imposed the precondition that parliament pause consideration of the foreign agent bill in the meantime. They said this ‘does not correspond to the spirit of partnership, which should be based on mutual respect and mutual trust’.

The US Ambassador to Georgia, Robin Dunnigan, earlier said that ‘senior members of the Georgian Government’ refused an invitation to ‘engage directly’ with senior US officials to discuss the countries’ strategic partnership and ‘any concerns with US assistance’.

02 May 2024, 21:52

Protesters paralyse Heroes Square

Tens of thousands of people are streaming into Hero’s Square from the demonstration outside parliament, to reinforce the smaller group of beleaguered protesters who were facing arrest.

Photo: Anna Edgar/OC Media.

02 May 2024, 21:16

‘Anonymous’ claims to have hacked the Interior Ministry’s website

International hacktivist collective Anonymous have claimed responsibility for taking down the website of Georgia’s Interior Ministry. Access to the website has become intermittent.

While expressing their support for protesters against foreign agent law in Georgia yesterday, a social media account connected with the movement threatened to compromise the Georgian Government’s ‘databases and email accounts’ and make them public. Soon after that, the website of the ruling Georgian Dream party became unavailable, and remains so, while pro-government TV channel PosTV’s website became unavailable.

02 May 2024, 21:03

Arrests on Hero’s Square

Protesters are continuing to block multiple exits on Hero’s Square despite police making multiple arrests and attempting to clear it. Hero’s Square is a vital intersection in Tbilisi. 

Many of the cars stuck in traffic are honking in support of the protesters, with several people seen getting out of their cars to join the protests.

Photo: Anna Edgar/OC Media.

02 May 2024, 20:54

Georgian Youtubers speak out

In an unprecedented move, 34 of the most popular Georgian YouTubers have recorded a joint video address against the draft foreign agent law and the police violence against protesters, sharing it on their channels.

02 May 2024, 20:42

Prominent Georgian footballer speaks out

Budu Zivzivadze, a prominent member of Georgia’s national football team, has spoken out for the second time to criticise the return of the draft foreign agent law.

‘No to Russia and no to everything that pushes Georgia towards Russia’, we wrote.

‘Georgia’s path is to Europe, I stand by those young people who put their health at risk for the future of Georgia. Attacking peaceful protesters cannot be justified in any way’, he added.

Georgia’s national football team have become extremely popular since qualifying for the Euro championship earlier this year for the first time.

Two other prominent national team members, Giorgi Kochorashvili and Giorgi Chakvetadze also expressed their support to the demonstrators on Thursday.

02 May 2024, 19:52

Rustaveli is blocked

Several thousand protesters have also gathered before the Parliament, blocking the central Rustaveli Avenue. The demonstration was announced earlier today by opposition groups.

02 May 2024, 19:53

Demonstrators block roads on Heroe’s Square

Protesters are blocking roads on the central Hero’s Square. According to local media, one person has been arrested.

02 May 2024, 19:37

Demonstration in Zugdidi

Dozens of people have gathered in front of the Zugdidi City Hall in western Georgia to protest the reintroduction of the draft foreign agent law.

Photo: Radio Atinati.

02 May 2024, 18:59

Zourabichvili: Georgian government ‘has declared war’

In an interview with France24, Georgian president Salome Zourabichvili once again criticised the foreign agent bill and the government for pursuing its enactment and demonising critics. 

‘Most concern[ing] today is even not so much the “Russian law” as the “Russian government”, because the declarations and statement that we heard just two days ago from the honorary president of the Georgian Dream, the ruling party, — Mr Ivanishvili, is [sic] a declaration of war to our partners, to the United States, and to the European Union’, Zourabichvili said. 

Read our take on Ivanishvili’s speech: Editorial | Georgia’s ruling oligarch unhinged 

02 May 2024, 18:55

Georgian Dream lawmaker stops interview to go after a street heckler 

Aluda Ghudushauri, a Georgian Dream MP and first deputy chair of the human rights committee, chased after a heckler today for calling him a ‘slave’ as he was talking to a pool of TV reporters in the street. 

Ghudushauri interrupted his comment and went after a car while shouting curses. 

02 May 2024, 18:50

EU enlargement chief criticises bill

The European Commission’s Director General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Gert Jan Koopman, is currently visiting Georgia. According to IPN he told reporters Koopman during a press conference about the tense climate in Tbilisi.

Koopman reportedly said the foreign agent law would be problematic for Georgia’s accession path and was incompatible with EU values. He reportedly said he hoped it would not be adopted in its current form.

02 May 2024, 18:30

Protesters gather at Heroes’ Square

Protesters have begun to gather at Heroes’ Square, with the suggested aim of blocking the major intersection in Tbilisi. There are at least two police vans near the tens of protesters.

Protesters gathering at Heroes' Square. Photo: OC Media

02 May 2024, 18:18

Kaladze verbally abuses reporter

Mayor of Tbilisi and Georgian Dream secretary general Kakha Kaladze today insulted a reporter from TV channel Formula when 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 lying in a ‘brazen’ manner to citizens. 

‘Call someone in your home and family brazen, you insolent scum’, Kaladze replied.

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

Kakha Kaladze speaking to journalists. Screengrab via Formula

Two weeks earlier, Kakha Kaladze called protesters ‘ordinary fascists’ for harassing reporters of pro-government TV channels PosTV and Imedi.

Tbilisi’s mayor is known for frequently verbally abusing women journalists. 

02 May 2024, 17:52

Council of Europe: draft bill incompatible with European human rights standards

Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić has condemned the Georgian government’s adoption in its second plenary reading of the foreign agent draft law, citing ‘major concerns about its compatibility with European democratic and human rights standards’.

Burić also condemned the ‘disproportionate use of force against demonstrators’ in recent days. 

02 May 2024, 17:05

US Ambassador: Georgian officials have refused our invitations 

Robin Dunnigan, the US Ambassador to Georgia, has released a statement condemning the Georgian government’s recent actions, as well as decision to ‘attack’ the US and EU. 

‘We have stood next to Georgia at the negotiations with a country that occupies 20 percent of Georgia’s territory.  We have supported the preservation of Georgia’s language, cultural heritage, and historical legacy’, wrote Dunnigan. ‘We refuse to change our commitment to the Georgian people and to Georgia’s future, a future in Europe’.

Tensions between US and Georgian officials have risen in recent years, with members of Georgia’s ruling party accusing the West  of seeking to undermine Georgia’s sovereignty and national identity and pull the country into war, and specifically accusing the US of seeking to incite revolution in Georgia. 

[Read more: Ivanishvili touts conspiracy theories at massive pro-government rally in Tbilisi]

The ambassador added that ‘senior members of the Georgian Government’ had refused invitations to ‘engage directly’ with senior US government officials, to discuss the countries’ strategic partnership and ‘any concerns with US assistance. 

‘We urge the Georgian government to recommit the country to its Euro-Atlantic future, as written in Georgia’s constitution’, the statement concluded. 

02 May 2024, 16:28

Charter of Journalistic Ethics condemns police ‘brutality’

The Charter of Journalistic Ethics,  a union and journalistic self-regulatory group, has condemned ‘brutality’ and illegal use of force by police against journalists on the night of 1-2 May. 

It states that three Mtavari journalists were injured while covering the protests, while a Publika journalist was hit by a police officer and prevented from doing their work. 

Two Formula journalists reportedly required medical assistance after inhaling tear gas, while a third was injured by rubber bullets. 

The Charter also noted that at least 14 journalists were obstructed in their work by police, with a number injured, the previous night.

Mtavari camera operator Zuka Chkhvirkia. Photo via Mtavari

02 May 2024, 15:39

EU, US, UK, and France condemn foreign agent bill and violence against protesters

After the Georgian parliamentary majority endorsed the foreign agent bill in its second reading on Wednesday, the US State Department once again criticised the draft bill, adding that it and ‘Georgian Dream's anti-Western rhetoric put Georgia on a precarious trajectory’. 

The department’s statement, shared on Thursday by the US Embassy to Georgia, also condemned the ‘use of violence against peaceful protests, including against journalists covering the demonstrations’.

On Wednesday, Mediaombudsman, a Georgian media rights group, stated that ten journalists and camera operators were targets of police violence while covering the protest of 30 April–1 May. 

Today, the French foreign ministry and the British Embassy in Tbilisi also reacted to the ongoing protests in Georgia, both emphasising the right to peaceful protest, and noting the Georgian population’s wish to move closer to Europe. 

Joseph Borrell, the EU high representative for foreign affairs, similarly criticised the use of violence against protesters, calling it 'unacceptable' on Wednesday.

02 May 2024, 14:36

Batumi protest announced

Martianelebi, a student movement in Batumi, have announced that they will hold a protest against the foreign agent law at 19:00, beginning at Batumi State University. 

The movement organised a demonstration on Wednesday that attracted thousands of protesters. 

02 May 2024, 14:01

Opposition MPS: The government have shut down parliament out of fear

At midday, a group of opposition MPs staged a briefing in front of parliament’s closed gates in Tbilisi to protest the cancellation of today’s parliamentary sessions. 

‘Georgia’s puppet government has locked parliament, they hid the foreign minister, and those frightened people basically shut down the legislative body’, said Roman Gotsiridze, chair of the Eurooptimists parliamentary group. 

The parliament earlier announced that it would be operating at the ‘red’ security level, meaning that a planned hearing of the foreign minister and bureau and plenary sessions would not be held. While the parliament will resume operation at the ‘yellow’ level from 14:00, a level at which sessions have been held in the past week, all of today’s sessions have been cancelled.

Foreign Minister Ilia Darchiashvili was expected to be grilled by MPs today over Georgia’s deteriorating relations with Western partners. 

Gotsiridze also noted the announcement earlier this week that Georgia would have an ‘unprecedented 10-day [public] holiday’, with 7, 8, and 10 May being declared public holidays in addition to standard Easter weekend and victory day holidays. 

MP Roman Gotsiridze speaking at the briefing. Screengrab via Mtavari

02 May 2024, 13:36

Protest announced for 19:00

Members of the opposition have announced that a protest will be held at the back entrance of parliament from 19:00. 

02 May 2024, 12:32

Parliament sessions cancelled

Parliament has announced that planned bureau and plenary sessions will not be held today, as a ‘red’ security level was announced at 23:00 on Wednesday, in light of the protests. The high security level will remain in place until 14:00. 

After 14:00, a ‘yellow’ security level will be implemented, at which point only parliament employees will be allowed in the building. 

The announcement stated that the measure was being implemented ‘due to the attack’ on parliament, which ‘poses a danger to the lives and health of people in the parliament’. 

02 May 2024, 11:38

Key events from yesterday

The foreign agent draft law passed its second plenary hearing, with 83 votes for and 23 votes against. One plenary hearing remains. The session was heated and characterised by conflict, with the speaker ejecting a number of opposition MPs. 

Tens of thousands of protesters demonstrated outside the parliament building. Police used water cannons, tear gas, and pepper spray against protesters. Multiple reports of use of rubber bullets also emerged, with  Deputy Interior Minister Aleksandre Darakhvelidze denying that police had used them, while insisting that the conditions had been met for their legal use.

Protesters watch as police deploy tear gas from the parliament’s side entrance. Shota Kincha/OC Media.