Georgia’s young protesters, having forced parliament into a U-turn on controversial new legislation, are determined to maintain the pressure on the government, which they believe is steering the country away from Europe.
Thousands of young and mainly peaceful protesters flooded the capital, Tbilisi, this week. Many of them, speaking to AFP, insisted they were not motivated by party allegiances in the fiercely partisan country.
The overarching reason they braved tear gas and water cannons, they said, was a firm belief that the ex-Soviet country should anchor itself to Europe.
The rallies erupted Tuesday when parliament began to introduce “foreign agent” laws reminiscent of Russian legislation used to suppress media and civil society.
Under pressure from the protesters, the ruling Georgian Dream party formally voted down the bill Friday to the cheers and whistles of protesters outside parliament, holding signs that read: “We are Europe.”
“We’re happy the law failed, that Georgians prevailed and that they will continue to fight for their European future,” said 20-year-old student Saba Meurmishvili.
Meurmishvili said police had arrested him at the rally while he was chanting anti-government slogans. He was held for two days, before a court released him with a $900 fine.
He went right back to demonstrating alongside other students, he said, to “protest this government, which is trying to bring us back to Russia.
“I want to build a European country. We are a generation born and raised in a democratic and free Georgia and we want to preserve our peace and our freedom.
For Meurmishvili, the protests that gripped Georgia — a former Soviet republic with a history of political turmoil — were linked to the country’s vibrant civil society, not a political party.
“We try to keep our distance from all political parties,” he said.
On Friday, the Kremlin accused foreign countries of orchestrating “an attempted coup.” (VOA)