Riot Police Brutally Beat Protesters Opposing Foreign Agents Bill in Tbilisi, Georgia

Violent crackdown on anti-'foreign agents' bill protests in Georgia raises concerns over democracy and EU integration, as ruling party pushes law despite opposition.

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Nasiru Eneji Abdulrasheed
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Riot Police Brutally Beat Protesters Opposing Foreign Agents Bill in Tbilisi, Georgia

Riot Police Brutally Beat Protesters Opposing Foreign Agents Bill in Tbilisi, Georgia

Riot police in Tbilisi, Georgia brutally beat protesters who were opposing a revised 'foreign agents' bill that was being debated in parliament. The proposed legislation would require organizations receiving more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as 'agents of foreign influence', drawing comparisons to a similar law used by Russia to crack down on dissent.

Thousands of protesters gathered outside parliament, chanting 'No to the Russian law!' as lawmakers were set to vote on the bill, which critics say could undermine Georgia's ambition to join the EU. Riot police fired tear gas and used pepper spray and batons to disperse the demonstrators. The protests continued for several days, with thousands gathering outside the Georgian parliament.

The protests were fueled by anti-West rhetoric from Georgian oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili, the founder and honorary chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream party. Ivanishvili publicly endorsed the party's policies, which run counter to the advice of the United States and the European Union, including the 'Russia-styled' foreign agents law and legislation targeting the LGBTQ+ community.

In a lengthy speech at a pro-government rally on April 29, Ivanishvili presented a conspiracy theory that the 'global party of war' aims to subdue Georgia's identity and sovereignty, and announced upcoming repressions against the opposition United National Movement party after the 2024 elections. The ruling party and opposition politicians reacted strongly to Ivanishvili's statements, with some accusing him of serving Russian interests and undermining Georgia's European integration.

Why this matters: The protests and violent crackdown by riot police in Tbilisi have raised concerns about the state of democracy and freedom of expression in Georgia. The proposed foreign agents bill and Ivanishvili's anti-West rhetoric threaten to derail Georgia's path towards EU membership and closer ties with the West.

The bill must pass three readings in parliament and be signed by the president to become law, but the ruling party has enough seats to override a presidential veto. Georgia's president is expected to veto the measure, but the ruling party is likely to push it through regardless. The European Parliament has condemned the 'foreign agents' law, emphasizing that EU accession negotiations should not be opened as long as this law is part of Georgia's legal order.

Key Takeaways

  • Riot police brutally cracked down on protesters opposing 'foreign agents' bill in Georgia.
  • Proposed law would require orgs with >20% foreign funding to register as 'foreign agents'.
  • Protests fueled by anti-West rhetoric from ruling party founder Bidzina Ivanishvili.
  • Crackdown raises concerns about democracy and Georgia's EU accession path.
  • EU warns it won't open accession talks if 'foreign agents' law is enacted in Georgia.