The Rose Reversal

by Nathan Hamm on 11/7/2007 · 6 comments


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.

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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Joshua Foust November 7, 2007 at 9:32 pm

I think we should focus on the real news here, which is that those masks are freaking awesome. And when I say “awesome,” I mean “dear god why.”

Meanwhile, remember a couple days ago when our erstwhile commenters chided me for wondering how long Saakashvili had left in office? You think that still holds?

Michael Hancock November 7, 2007 at 11:56 pm

Where’s Gordon Freeman when we need him! Calling all MIT grads with knowledge of quantum physics! Georgia needs You!

But seriously — I was with you Josh. Granted, I was silent, so it’s hardly worth mentioning.

brenden November 8, 2007 at 1:18 am

I live in Georgia, and I’ve been watching the events unfold for awhile on TV and talking with the georgian fam I live with (who, incidentally, have a cousin now in prison because of the riots), and the media coverage on both sides has been incredibly biased. One news report said that after 6 days of rioting (what the hell??? this has been the most peaceful demonstration ever) the police finally moved in… others are saying that after protesters attempted to give the police freshly baked chocolate chip cookies they were brutally beaten and potentially sexually abused. Let’s get some common sense on both sides… the protesters tried to block rustaveli, the police said no, and then they got tear gassed. sucks to be everyone.

And yes, good lord, georgian riot police are F******* scary. Especially when they’re riding behind sonic weapons on the back of the truck, or in columns of about 500. freaky as hell to watch.

jb November 8, 2007 at 6:26 am

I think he’s pretty entrenched for now. Storming Imedi was definitely over the top, and destroying Badri Patarkatsishvili’s amusement park was ridiculous. But it all happened, and it looks right now (and I mean right now, as I’m typing this in an internet cafe on Rustaveli Ave.) that the military is sticking by Misha.

The general mood in the city, if I had to characterize it right now, is stunned. A fun time to be here.

jb November 8, 2007 at 7:34 am

As the day grinds on, “stunned” appears to be shifting to “furious”. Rustaveli is closed again, and it’s killing local businesses. (Actually, a larger stretch is closed today than during the past few days of protests.) Additionally, people are getting their heads around just how brutal the police were yesterday.

We’ll see. Yesterday’s actions were ridiculously over the top.

Inkan1969 November 8, 2007 at 10:01 am

What happens now? You would think that Saakashvili has committed political suicide, as even people sympathetic with him seem to be left dumbfounded at the overreaction, and troubled by the closing of media. But are there any political forces out there that really could force him to resign?

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