Day 3: Georgian Protesters start blocking city streets

Ketevan Tsamebuli Ave. blocked by demonstrators. Photo by Giorgi Pkhachiashvili

Ketevan Tsamebuli Ave. blocked by demonstrators. Photo by Giorgi Pkhachiashvili

TBILISI, Georgia – The Georgian anti-government protesters were starting to block the city streets in heavily traffiked locations on Saturday. On Sunday Oppositional leaders plan to go to church and prey for the peace, as it is Georgian Christian Orthodox Saint Day.  After the mass they will make informational demonstration.

As Eka Beselia, member of Movement for United Georgia announced, they will start blocking the streets again on Monday.

Today at 4 p.m. anti-government protesters have blocked four key locations in Tbilisi: Ketevan Tsamebuli Avenue in Avlabari, near the President’s administration building; Kostava Avenue in front of the Georgia Public Broadcaster; Rustaveli Avenue in front of Parliament; and Vaja Pshavela Avenue in front of Rustavi 2 TelevisionBy 4.30 the largest number of protesters, nearly 5,000, gathered near the Parliament. The leaders decided half of them should join protesters near Georgia Public Broadcaster and protesters in Avlabari, as by 4.15 less then fifty people gathered in Avlabari at Ketevan Tsamebuli Avenue.

By 4.40 Protesters in Avlabari were joined by the protesters from the Parliament headed by Eka Beselia, Movement for United Georgia and Kakha Kukava, The Conservative Party. They blocked the street. p>
By 4.45 p.m. thousands of Protesters gathered in front of Public Broadcaster. There are mostly supporters of Alliance for Georgia and United Opposition. The protesters marching from the Parliament also joined them. They plan to march towards Rustavi2 and block Vaja Pshavela Avenue for a short time.

As Levan Gachechiladze, the leader of The United Opposition, announced Rustavi2 will be one of the hot spots from Monday, as their coverage of the demonstration is biased. Maybe they are irritated with the joke of Vano Javakhishvili, in Vano’s Show at Rustavi2 at April 10, a Saakashvili-supporting TV station. He joked protesters are picking on a weak link by attacking Georgia Public Broadcaster, the old government channel, and invited them to visit their station.

Instead, he gave the address for Imedi TV, formerly an opposition television station that was the cause of Saakashvili stepping down in November 2007, after he declared martial law and attacked journalists there. Currently, Imedi is offering news considered to be more sympathetic to the administration.p>

The protesters plan to return to Parliament at 8 p.m. and continue informational demonstration there.

Protesters meet Public Broadcaster

Public Broadcaster General Director Levan Kubaneishvili made a decision to hold discussions with opposition leaders. Levan Gachechiladze, Zviad Dzidziguri and Koba Davtashvili are currently meeting with him.

After 4 p.m., some opposition leaders together with the protesters moved away from planned protests at Parliament and towards the Georgian Public Broadcaster, demanding that the channel broadcast the demonstration live. Kostava Street is almost blocked by the protesters. Conservative Party member Bezhan Gunava attempted to break into the broadcaster’s building.

Though they broadcast the program during their regular news hours at 12 and 4 p.m. and had plans to show the protest at 8 p.m., they did not, as opposition organizers demand, show the protests live consistently between 2 p.m.-8 p.m. The facility is protected by the police and Special Forces who are located throughout the building.

Otherwise, the protests went without major incident. By 4 p.m tens of thousands of people have gathered in front of the Parliament building demanding the President Saakashvili’s resignation.

Almost all leaders of oppositional parties have addressed the protesters saying they will continue political protests until their main demand will not be fulfilled. Most speeches were met with cheers, with the loudest for Levan Gachechiladze and Irakli Alasania. The protesters met Nino Burjanadze with whistles.

Poet Dato Magradze read the statement written by the opposition saying that this is the last chance for the government and they have to put the interests of country higher than their own interests.

Thousands of protesters march towards Parliament

By 1:45 p.m., more than 5,000 protesters challenging President Mikheil Saakashvili’s administration had already gathered in four different places in Tbilisi, and had started marching towards Parliament.

Avlabari Metro Station was the starting place for the Conservative Party and Movement for the United Georgia. They reported choosing the place intentionally because the new administration offices of the president are also located at Avlabari district. By 12 p.m. nearly 1000 people had already gathered at this spot. Leaders of the party are waiting for more protesters and at 1 p.m. they started a march towards the Parliament.

At the same time, people began gathering near the Georgian Public Broadcaster. Two movements, the Alliance for Georgia and former presidential opponent Levan Gachechiladze made statements. Alliance for Georgia leader Irakli Alasania took a hard line: he said the only chance for negotiations is if the President resigns.

Though the majority of people gathering were from Tbilisi, some activists arrived from Adjara as well. “There are people coming from Adjara … but they are also going to have a demonstration in Batumi,” said Republican Party Batumi Supreme Council member Gia Masalkini.

Students and the members of Nino Burjanadze’s party, The Democratic Movement – United Georgia, started to gather at the yard of Tbilisi State University. On the way to Rustaveli Avenue , towards Parliament, students shouted “Go go go Misha!!!”

Students from the Tbilisi State University, Georgian Technical University, Ilia Chavchavadze University, Medical University, And The Agricultural University united together to join the protesters’ demand.

Student of Tbilisi State University Ramaz Bechvaia, 23, said that all students share the main demand of resignation of President Saakashvili.

“We will stand here until our demand will be fulfilled,” said Bechvaia.

Protesters coming from Georgian Public Broadcaster and Tbilisi State University are going to join near Philarmonic Hall. Because of the large number of people the movement of the cars is stopped on Rustaveli Avenue.

Protesters from different regions of Georgia joined the demonstration on Rustaveli Avenue. 200 people from Guria region are already in Tbilisi and 1500 activists from Samegrelo camedespite a municipal transport shutdown.

One protester from Guria, 37 year-old Shota Gogiberidze, said “We have an obligation towards our children and have to create a better future for them.”

Out-of-town demonstrators hired private vehicles to reach the capital, and reported that police were stopping their cars and discouraged them from continuing to Tbilisi. According to protesters who reached the capital, the roads are now free and a lot of protesters are soon going to join the demonstration.

Protesters from Batumi went to the residence of President Saakashvili in Bobokvati, Adjara in approximately 50 cars and 10 mini buses. Ex-prime minister Zurab Nogaideli and members of his oppositional party Movement for Fair Georgia had information that President Saakashvili was going to be at his residence. When the information turned out to be false, the protesters went back to Batumi and despite rainy weather protested in front of the theatre. Observers reported that about 3000 people are going to join them.

Nino Burjanadze (Democratic movement - United Georgia) accompanied with her sons and students marching toward Parliament. photo by Giorgi Pkhachiashvili

Nino Burjanadze (Democratic movement - United Georgia) accompanied with her sons and students marching toward Parliament. photo by Giorgi Pkhachiashvili

Creating Future Today- students in front of Georgian Public Brpoadcaster. Photo by Tamuna Koridze

Creating Future Today- students in front of Georgian Public Brpoadcaster. Photo by Tamuna Koridze

Opposition’s Pre-protest Preparation: Broadcast … what?

Movement for the United Georgia are reading the statement to the Public Broadcaster on April 9, 2009. PHOTO BY GIORGI PKHACHIASHVILI

Kakha Kukava(Conservative Party) and Eka Beselia(Movement for the United Georgia) are reading the statement to the Public Broadcaster on April 9, 2009. PHOTO BY GIORGI PKHACHIASHVILI

TBILISI, Georgia – On Wednesday afternoon at 3 p.m., the oppositional parties Movement for the United Georgia and the Conservative Party managed to gather in front of Georgian Public Broadcaster demanding that the former government-owned, current public TV station, broadcast the next day’s 9th April protests against the Saakashvili administration live.
But what exactly will the TV station be showing on April 9?
A day before the big event, the Georgian opposition parties are still unwilling – or perhaps unable – to talk about specific plans for the march.
Leaders like Eka Beselia, leader of Movement for a United Georgia, were more interested in making demands for tv coverage.
The movement led by former Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili, who now lives in exile in Paris, made an announcement for the journalists and passed their statement in written form to chancellery with the following demands: “The protest should be broadcasted live from 2p.m. till 8 p.m.”
 They also demanded that the first channel should broadcast all the important decisions and announcements that the 13 opposition leaders participating in Thursday’s demonstrations will make. They also demanded to be given equal time to both the opposition and the authorities in the informational and analytical programs
The Movement for  United Georgia is a political party run by Irakli Okruashvili, Saakashvili’s former appointee as Defense Minister, who stepped down in protest in 2007 over the president’s handling of South Ossetia. He currently lives in Paris.
The day was mostly quiet, but there were a few pre-protest activities:
There were no live broadcast but there were a lot of journalists in front of the parliament at one o’clock when The Movement for the United Georgia and Conservators gathered there in order to honor the memory of the victims of 9th April in1989.
Some people from the Public Defender’s Office and Public Advocacy attended the ceremonial. They put the flowers near the huge stone in front of the parliament, which is a memorial for the victims of 9th April 1989. Then they lit candles for their memory.
After leaving the letter at the Presidential Residence with the claim not to use weapon during the protest, young people from “Why?” movement came with the signs. Young people with white shirts also made a human chain in the middle of Rustaveli Avenue. They had the posters with slogans: “Why Misha?” “Why dictator?” The participants met them with applauses. And the drivers joined them with signals.
On Thursday, April 9, more than dozen oppositional parties will start marching from three different places and at 2 p.m. they will join in front of Parliament. They will start from the President’s Residency in Avlabari, from Georgian Public Broadcaster and from Tbilisi State University. Democratic movement – United Georgia will gather at 12 o’clock near the State University and will move to the Parliament. Labor party will go straight to the Parliament. Young people from the April 9th headquarters will start their 9th April protest in front of the Parliament at midnight.
Keti Ebanoidze, Giorgi Pkhachiashvili, Ketevan Vashagashvili, Arevik Badalyan, Ia Gavasheli