Friday and Saturday the protest rumbles on
By Sopo Datishvili
Monday, April 13
On April 10, after the deadline of the ultimatum given to Mikheil Saakashvili had passed, the opposition announced that a national civil disobedience campaign had begun. To get this going they started blocking main roads in Tbilisi.
On Friday and Saturday protest actions were held in several places at the same time. Though Avlabari Square and Ketevan Tsamebuli Avenue were blocked, as were the roads around the Presidential Residence of Avlabari, those by the Public Broadcaster and those near Rustavi 2 off Vaja Pshavela Avenue, Rustaveli Avenue remained the epicentre of the protest. As part of the campaign of total disobedience, the opposition leaders also announced that every day from 6 pm- 9 pm they would block off the Kostava Street and Ketevan Tsamebuli Avenue.
On Friday several thousand people gathered with opposition leaders in Avlabari Square and before moving to the Presidential Residence stood outside Avlabari Metro. There the opposition leaders gave them “battle plans” for the future. “We are going to spread our protest throughout the country. All the important facilities and roads will be blocked off, which will tell everyone that we cannot live like this any longer,” said Goga Khaindrava.
After this the opposition leaders called on the people to march with them to the Avlabari residence of Mikheil Saakashvili. The building, protected by Government security, became quite noisy for a while. The leaders ironically announced that a meeting was being held there to “encourage Saakashvili”. The demonstrators threw cabbages and carrots into the building. They said that Saakashvili is a scared rabbit, afraid of his people.
The next destination for the demonstrators was the Public Broadcaster. The main reason for holding a protest here was to demand that it be broadcast live. Alliance for Georgia member Mamuka Katsitadze underlined in his speech that the opposition doesn’t want to strain the situation and how things develop is up to the Government. He also said that if the Government continues to respond inadequately to all that is happening in the country the protest will spread nationwide and people will take to every street in Georgia.
After listening to speeches from different opposition leaders people returned to Rustaveli Avenue where an evening information meeting was held. The leaders of the opposition asked the people not to remain in the Avenue overnight as they had heard that provocations were being planned. Salome Zourabichvili, the leader of the Way of Georgia, said that the shops nearby were about to be robbed so this could be blamed on the protestors the next day. The protestors did leave for the most part, and opposition leaders decided not to hold meetings at night as it was very risky, the possibility of provocations being conducted remaining serious.
The next day was as full of action as the previous one. People started gathering outside Parliament for about 3 pm. Kostava Avenue once more became a centre of the protest. As well as the repeated specific demand that the protests be broadcast live, opposition leaders also reiterated some of their more general demands. The leader of the Alliance for Georgia called on the people to stand united against the Saakashvili regime. “The Georgian people will regain their country by standing together. We have already shown the Government that we aren’t just a small group and this isn’t only a Tbilisi demonstration. The whole of Georgia is involved. Each step we take will be peaceful, but we will show the world that we are only against one person. We want to change the system which led us into this crisis,” said Alasania.
The opposition leaders then marched to the building of another broadcasting company, Government-controlled Rustavi 2. This time Vaja Pshavela Avenue was blocked off, and this caused serious traffic jams. Levan Gachechiladze said that from Monday the Rustavi 2 building would become one of the major focuses of the protest. “I ask you not to serve the devil. Your job today, yours and your directors’, is the same as serving the devil, whose name is Mikheil Saakashvili. His regime will end soon and you should try and keep your names clean in this process,” Gachechiladze told the Rustavi 2 journalists.
Singer Zaza Khutsishvili also addressed the people. He has recently left his position as a jury of the highly rated Rustavi 2 show Star Academy. He announced his decision after the participants of the show called on people not to join the demonstrations on April 8.