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Say no to violence

By Salome Modebadze
Monday, May 30
Thousands of peaceful civilians gathered in front of Shota Rustaveli monument at 3 p.m. on Saturday to express their protest towards the violent dispersal of the protest rally on May 26. Discouraging the “brutal treatment” handed out by the special task groups against the protesters the NGOs, politicians and public figures walked up Rustaveli Avenue in silence. Meeting new protesters with great applause, the peaceful pedestrians encouraged the passersby to say no to violence.

No official speeches were delivered by politicians in front of the Parliament on that day. Demanding an investigation into the events and the release of the detainees, protesters opposed any violence against the peaceful Georgian citizens. Wearing black armbands, people stood together to express their condolence towards the death of protesters and supported their families. Writers Rati Amaglobeli and Basa Janikashvili expressed their worries and indignation towards the fact that people are still missing after several days of searching. “What happened on May 26 was more than just a dismissal – it was a terrible massacre and all that has been proved by the televised scenes,” Janikashvili told the media.

Rejecting any form of violence against society, people disapproved the aggression both from the Government and opposition at the same time. “Everyone who dislikes Misha turns out to be on the Russians' side [in the Government’s mind]. It means that the special task groups beat their own poor pensioners as if they were Russians,” analyst Gia Khukhashvili worried. Chairman of Georgian Advocates Association Zaza Khatiashvili accused Saakashvili’s “zonder brigades” of breaching legal rights.

Initiating the establishment of a civil coordinative council, Davit Tarkhan-Mouravi Chairman of the Public Resistance Movement spoke of the May 26 dismissal as a military massacre against their own people. Encouraging the people to start fighting against violence, he said it would be the struggle of a society not politicians. Stressing the necessity for coordination among the people, Tarkhan-Mouravi initiated the creation of a coordinative council. Moreover, the May 26 Unity would unite all the human rights organizations, investigating the facts of the recent tragedy.

People gathered in front of the Parliament and accused the Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili of returning Georgia to the communist methods. “On May 26, 2011 Georgian police did the same thing at Rustaveli Avenue as the Soviet special task groups had done on April 9, 1989,” Shalva Shavgulidze member of Our Georgia – Free Democrats said hoping that the Georgian people would adequately react to the violence.

Actor Dima Jaiani told The Messenger that the special task groups had blocked the exits and created a circle around the protesters. He along with Soso Jachvliani and Gogi Kavtaradze were among the people sheltering under Rustaveli cinema. Worried about the fate of the other patriot civilians injured at the cinema on that night Jaiani remembered how the special task groups had been aggressive towards the actors but four masked men didn’t allow anyone to harm them. “The situation was the same at the police department where we had been respectfully released to our apartments,” the actor said stressing that there are honorable people even in the law enforcing agencies.

“People are kidnapped and we don’t know where our children are!” women screamed to The Messenger. Stressing they had only joined the Representative Public Assembly because of the many problems they are facing in their everyday lives the passersby found it difficult to make sense of the post-dismissal story. “I still feel confused and I’ll need some time to realize which side to accuse of the crime,” a man told us without giving his name.

Confident that the May 28 solidarity act would make the Government feel uneasy MP Dimitri Lortkipanidze accused the special task groups of deliberate and excessive use of force. Talking of the social media stories about the aggression of the “zonder brigades” the independent MP explained to us that the solidarity act has been the first sign of public protest against the violence. “Today’s solidarity act has proved to the authorities that we would never forget what happened on May 26 nor are we afraid of anything!” MP told The Messenger.

Expressing his great respect towards the NGOs insisting on public solidarity, Lortkipanidze wished these organizations would help to create a political environment that meets the people’s demand. “What people want is the rapid withdrawal of the current political regime,” he stated. On the same day a group of Georgian people and their US friends gathered in front of the White House in Washington DC to oppose to the May 26 crackdown. As Irakli Kakabadze member of the rally told the Voice of America they protested against the “bloody crackdown and massacre of peaceful demonstrators in Tbilisi how President Saakashvili is dealing with his people”.

With the posters saying No More Funding to Terrorist Saakashvili protesters worried that Saakashvili would start a large-scale crackdown of his own people. “But what we hope for is that the international community won’t turn with blind eye to the repression in Georgia and more international evolvement will be ensured,” Kakabadze said encouraging the international society to “contribute to the development of the civil society and democracy in Georgia but not to the bloody dictators”.

Meanwhile Georgian human rights organizations (GYLA, ISFED, OSGF, etc) called for an investigation into 26 May developments. “Despite the availability of legal grounds and the authorities’ calls for leaving the territory by protesters before breaking up the rally, the force used by the Ministry of Interior Affairs was disproportionate. Video footage disseminated by different media outlets make it clear that law enforcement bodies used excessive force even when protesters did not or could not offer any resistance. It is deprived of any legal or reasonable grounds to chase and physically assault people who are running away or hiding in buildings,” it was said in a statement.

Encouraging the Government and law enforcing bodies to provide medical assistance to all injured people; announce searching of the lost citizens; launch an efficient, unbiased and timely probe into the cases of disproportional force when breaking up the rally and call to account those who are guilty; look into the reports of interfering with journalists’ professional activities, abusing them physically and inflicting material damages to them and give the Public Defender and international human rights organizations an opportunity to observe the investigation process to raise public awareness of the events.