Georgia’s National Bureau of Enforcement has postponed the eviction of a second family in Tbilisi, as protests against a series of controversial evictions continue.
On Friday, protesters gathered outside the home of the Balakhadze family, who were due to be evicted later that day. The family includes Guja Balakhadze, a food delivery worker and the family’s primary breadwinner, his brother, who has disabilities, his elderly mother, and several children.
The protest was organised by Khma (‘voice’), a left-wing movement, and was also supported by the May Student Movement, food delivery workers, several miners from Chiatura, and Varlam Goletiani, the leader of the grassroots group Saving the Rioni Valley.
The Enforcement Bureau announced their decision soon after the protest began outside the house in Tbilisi’s Vera District.
It follows a similar aborted eviction from a flat on Tbilisi’s Dadiani Street where protesters had gathered on Wednesday.
The protests began on Tuesday, as the Enforcement Bureau, with the help of the emergency services and police, successfully evicted the family of Marina Kharatishvili. During the eviction, 20 people were arrested as protesters clashed with the authorities.
One of the speakers at Friday’s protest, a child who was due to be evicted on Wednesday, referred to Kharatishvili’s eviction and the uncertainty it created for him and his family.
The protests against this week’s evictions have drawn unprecedented attention to predatory lending and the role of commercial banks and the government. Advocacy for adequate housing had previously been minuscule in Georgia, mostly limited in recent years to students demanding adequate campus housing.
A university sit-in
Following the Enforcement Bureau’s decision to postpone Friday’s eviction, members of Khma, the May Student Movement, and several supporters marched to Tbilisi State University to continue their protest.
Students from the May Student Movement and their supporters occupied the main office of the university to demand a halt to foreclosures on families’ sole residences and the release of two men facing criminal charges for their roles in Tuesday’s demonstration.
They were demanding the release of Giorgi Khasaia and Akaki Chikobava — two activists from Khma. Chikobava is also an invited lecturer at the TSU.
The two are currently in pre-trial detention facing charges of damaging or destroying property as part of a group, punishable by three to six years in prison.
‘Let the academic staff join us. Let the University go on strike until Giorgi Khasaia and Akaki Chikobava are freed from unlawful detention and the planned evictions are stopped’, their statement read.
Khasaia and Chikobava have been accused of smashing the windows of a car belonging to the National Bureau of Enforcement, which enforces court rulings. The incident happened during an attempt by protesters to prevent an eviction in central Tbilisi on 23 January.
[Read more about Tuesday’s demonstration: Police clash with protesters attempting to block Tbilisi eviction]
Chikobava and Khasaia did not strongly dispute the charges during their bail hearing on 25 January, but requested to be released on a bond of ₾2,000 ($750), which Tbilisi City Court judge Davit Kurtanidze denied.