The protesters gathered in front of Tbilisi’s National Library did not allow the president and minority representatives enter the library building where the president was scheduled to deliver his speech on February 8. Political prisoners were demanding attending the President’s speech and asking questions to him. However, they were not let in by the representatives of the President’s administration. After this the gathered people blocked the main entrance. Minority representatives were verbally abused and physically assaulted by the throng of people congregating outside the library. Minority representatives condemned the crowd’s behavior. Georgian Dream also condemned the fact and blamed the United National Movement (UNM) members for deliberately provoking the incident. Domestic and international organizations also condemned the violent actions of the protestors.
Minority assaulted in front of National Library
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, February 11
The president’s annual speech to the parliament scheduled on February 8 was postponed based on the demands of the Georgian Dream coalition members. According to coalition representatives, until adoption of the constitutional changes are approved, the president’s visit to the parliament would be “unfair”. The coalition also stated that through the legislation the president is permitted to deliver the speech up until March, therefore the temporary postponement of the speech would not have been a serious problem.
In his speech from the presidential palace, Saakashvili stated that he wanted to respond to the most critical questions he has faced and made steps for collaboration. The president also stated that he was ready to agree to the Georgian Dream’s draft concerning restrictions on the president’s powers. Saakashvili also reiterated that no one will force him to stay indoors, or to walk freely and meet people. Saakashvili also invited Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili for a discussion over the constitution and some other vitally important issues.
Minority members claim that the incidents in front of the Library were “staged” by the coalition and that police did not ensure security norms. According to Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava, police had information regarding possible provocations beforehand and they did nothing to prevent them. UNM MP Irma Nadirashvili stated that the incidents were personally planned by PM Ivanishvili against his opponents.
“It was the first step made by the PM in encouraging a civil confrontation,” Nadirashvili said. Fellow MP of the UNM Chiora Taktakishvili who was physically assaulted and whose nose was bloodied during the violence stated that years of hard work of the National Movement for forming of secure environment in the country has been annihilated by the coalition.
PM Ivanishvili stated that if Saakashvili had made such a statement earlier some complications would have been avoided.
“The president recognizes the mistakes he has made. However, it is more important how he will act going forward. I am ready to collaborate with the president and his team on all issues. But I can not forgive them the criminal actions in case such facts are identified,”Ivanishvili stated, while condemning the behavior in front of the National Library. He explained that the police will be more mobilized in future situations.
The interior minister stated that UNM members were provided two alternative entrances. However, they refused and insisted on using the main entrance. MIA also represented the map of the entrances.
Parliament chair Davit Usupashvili stated that the president and UNM members created the provocation themselves.
“Georgians have much anger towards the former government and Saakashvili selected an open place where maintaining his security would be difficult. There are video materials that reveal the provocative actions of the UNM members towards the public gathered there,” Usupashvili said.
Georgian Dream MP Zviad Dzidziguri said the incidents were not in the interests of the Georgian Dream. “The confrontation was in the interests of the UNM members and the president who are trying to cause unrest in the country,” Dzidziguri said.
The Georgian patriarch Ilia II called the incident “regrettable.”
US ambassador to Georgia Richard Norland condemned the incidents, stating that violence has no justification even in the case that one thinks that he is right or was mistreated.
Members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Michael Aastrup Jensen (Denmark, ALDE) and Boriss Cilevics (Latvia, SOC), have also condemned the incidents.
“Violence has no place at democratic protests,” they said and called on all concerned to maintain calm and to refrain from any action that could further increase tension.
“We urge the authorities to fully investigate this outbreak of violence and to prosecute any perpetrators in full compliance with international standards,” they added.
The spokespersons of EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, and the European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, Stefan Fule, also condemned the fact and called upon all parties to act in a responsible way and to refrain from any violence.
The Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, Transparency International Georgia, ISFED and Open Society Georgia also condemned behavior of the protesters, stating that the police should have carried out more effective preventive measures to avoid such complications.
“We also understand those people who possess feelings of injustice who gathered there. However, their feelings do not justify violent actions, “the organizations stated and appealed to the MIA to launch an investigation into the incidents.
The MIA detained several individuals concerning the incident. Two of them have been released after paying a fine.