Saakashvili sent out the
Disney fun enforcement squad scariest-looking riot police in the world (they bring to mind not only fascist mouseketeers but also Civil Protection from Half-Life 2) to break up protests calling for the president to resign.
The government’s show of force was its first since daily rallies against Saakashvili began last Friday outside the Georgian parliament building. Russian television showed demonstrators fleeing in all directions as tear gas filled Rustaveli Avenue, Tbilisi’s main thoroughfare. Police were seen beating several protesters with truncheons.
There were no reports of serious injuries, though Georgian news agencies reported that at least 100 demonstrators were hospitalized with symptoms related to the tear gas.
Opposition leaders initially said that they will continue their protests.
Saakashvili has vowed to stay in power and has, in what has now become quite characteristic for him, blamed Russia for the protests. I’m all for blaming Russia as much as the next red-blooded fan of Red Dawn and Rambo 3, but come the hell on Misha… He says he has proof, but I think it’s safe to assume he won’t produce it. In fairness to both sides, the opposition and the government make themselves sound foolish.
“Today’s events have shown that Georgia is being run by a terrorist organization led by the terrorist Mikhail Saakashvili,” opposition leader Goga Khaindrava told journalists following a brief spell under arrest.
“Russia has launched a wide-scale attack against Georgia,” Georgian Parliament Minister Givi Targamadze said on television. Opposition members had “sold their motherland for a specific price,” he added.
The government claims that it sent out the riot police to prevent the protesters from setting up tents on Rustaveli Avenue and that it would allow them to continue protesting elsewhere, presumably somewhere that keeps them a bit farther from parliament. That was later pre-empted by Saakashvili’s declaration of a state of emergency, which includes all manner of wonderful things such as the revocation of the right to protest and the shutdown of free media because this is, in the words of the government, a military situation now because a “state coup” was attempted.
Be sure to keep visiting TOL’s Georgia blog for posts on the situation as it unfolds.