Rally against Panorama (DFWatch, 2015)

TBILISI, DFWatch–24 non-governmental organizations and several opposition parties plan a rally against former PM Bidzina Ivanishvili on May 7.

The venue is near the office of GDS TV, on Kojori road on the southern outskirts of Tbilisi. As the territory near Tbilisi Botanical Garden, where the protesters are to stand against plans to build a hotel, is privately owned by company associated with Ivanishvili, they don’t rule out the possibility of a physical confrontation.

“Now, we’ll resort to more radical forms of protest,” Tsira Elisashvili told DFWatch. She is an activist with Tbilisis Hamqari, an NGO focused on protecting Tbilisi’s historical heritage.

“We realize that [the rally] may be the violation of private property, but nevertheless we are moving in,” Elisashvili said, adding that the organizers have notified NGOs working in the field of human rights to protect them in the case of a violent incident.

Four opposition parties support the rally and say they are ready to participate: former President Mikheil Saakashvili’s National Movement (UNM); the Free Democrats, lead by Irakli Alasania; Democratic Movement, led by Nino Burjanadze and New Political Center – Girchi, a new party made up of former UNM members.

The protesters oppose plans by several Ivanishvili-owned companies to build a hotel on a recently purchased 29 hectares plot near Botanical Garden in Tbilisi. They are also against swapping 4 hectares of land between the garden and another company which is also owned by the former PM. Furthermore, they want to stop the project Panorama Tbilisi, a planned complex in the old part of the city. The issues involved in the dispute span environment, urban development, social conditions, and conflicts of interest.