Tensions rising in Tbilisi

May 7, 2009
Six policemen and several protesters were injured in a confrontation which took place outside the headquarters of the Tbilisi police department on Wednesday evening. The protesters had gathered outside the police station to protest the detention of three individuals who had been arrested on Tuesday for having assaulted Nika Avaliani, a news reader on a morning television program. The television studios where Avaliani works is one of three places in Tbilisi--along with the parliament building and the presidential residence--where protesters have been picketing since April 9.

Up until this week, the protests were mostly low-key and uneventful. But things seem to be heating up now.
In this video, you can first see singer and protest figure Giorgi Gachechiladze speaking outside the parliament building, inciting demonstrators to march on the police station and demand the release of the three who had been arrested the day before.

At the 1:25  of the video, demonstrators can be seen standing outside the fence which separates the police station from the street. At 1:40 in the video you see two people climbing over the fence, and in the ensuing minutes the police on one side and the protesters on the other become increasingly confrontational, pushing and stabbing at one another through the fence.

At 4:30, the police appear to begin firing plastic [some say rubber] bullets into the crowd, hitting a number of people in the face. According to one blog (linking to this site in Georgian), two journalists have been blinded after having been hit in the eyes with the bullets. The police are denying having fired any projectiles into the crowd, even though this video appears to suggest otherwise.

On Thursday, some opposition leaders called for an immediate meeting with Georgian president Saakashvili in order to find a way out of the current political impasse. While some opposition figures have expressed a willingness to create a dialogue with Saakashvili, others insist that the only possible solution to the crisis is Saakashvili's resignation. Saakashvili, who was re-elected in 2008, has thus far refused to meet with the opposition with regard to the current round of protests.

Meanwhile, opposition figures are claiming that Tuesday's announcement of a mutiny at a military base outside Tbilisi was staged political theatre.  
I make no claims to possessing special expertise on Georgian politics. However, it does seem like the approach that security forces had been taking since the protests began of April 9--namely, staying above the fray and not allowing protesters to goad them into heavy-handed responses--is perhaps beginning to unravel.
We'll see what happens. 

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