Thousands of protesters attempted to shut down parliament after the government promised and then reneged on electoral reform. Police removed the demonstrators, but the political crisis seems far from finished.
Riot police forcibly removed protesters from around the Georgian parliament building on November 18 as the crisis deepened over a broken promise from the government to reform the country’s electoral system. Opposition parties have demanded snap elections under a new system that wouldn’t give a leg up to the ruling party, as the current one does.
Police used water cannons and tear gas to evict the protesters who had been camping for several days outside parliament. Earlier in the day, opposition activists had sealed the Georgian parliament’s gates with padlocks and chains and stood vigil at the entrances so that members couldn’t get in. Parliamentary committee meetings failed to convene as picketers prevented lawmakers from the governing Georgian Dream from entering the assembly. Reuters estimated the protestors numbered 20,000 over the weekend.
“By blocking [the parliament], we hope to show to the public, and to [Georgian Dream Chairman Bidzina] Ivanishvili first of all, that there is no more business as usual,” Zurab Tchiaberashvili, a member of parliament from the European Georgia party who was manning one of the entrances, told Eurasianet. “The government has to understand that they have passed the point of no return when they can continue governing the country like before.”
Police issued warnings, telling protesters to unblock entries to the parliament. “In case of attempts to storm government buildings or continued blockade, police will react according to law,” police said in a statement.
As dusk fell they did react, with hundreds of armored officers using their riot shields to muscle the protesters away from the parliament building. Many of the protesters resisted, and others shouted abuse at the officers, but there were no apparent uses of excessive force. In less than an hour all demonstrators were forced to the nearby streets where they continued to protest.