TBILISI, DFWatch–Thousands of people came to downtown Tbilisi to mark Independence Day on Monday. The day was celebrated in 12 cities and towns all over the country.
There was no military parade, which used to be a tradition during the Saakashvili government, but the new authorities has kept a small military element in the Independence Day celebration.
On Monday, 200 military recruits took an oath in the presence of thousands of people, with the president, who is also the commander-in-chief, head of the Joint Staff, the defense minister and the prime minister, as well as other government members.
Before the oath ceremony, three Iroquois helicopters flew over the area and unfolded a Georgian flag. Young boys and girls performed with flags on Freedom Square.
The president, the prime minister and defense minister each addressed the audience.
President Giorgi Margvelashvili spoke about freedom and responsibility. He said a country is free if its citizens are free.
“Being free means managing your own fate, involved in the life of [your] own city, the life of [your] own country, being a responsible citizen,” he said, adding that being free also means to protect your own rights, but respect others and protect their rights too.
Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili wished the soldiers present at the ceremony a happy Independence Day.
“Being a Georgian soldier is the greatest honor and responsibility,” he said.
The PM remembered soldiers who have died while fighting for Georgia’s territorial integrity and in international missions. He then addressed soldiers who now participate in international missions, who, he said, have a special charge.
“They are protecting the Georgian state and the future of our children in a foreign land.”
Defense Minister Irakli Alasania also wished soldiers a happy Independence Day.
“Homeland, honor, dedication – this is the slogan for our armed force,” he said. “Dedication to the homeland and sacrificing for it is in our blood.”
Both he and the president recalled the history of how Georgia became independent.
With a minute of silence, everyone gathered on Freedom Square paid tribute for those who died fighting for Georgia’s territorial integrity and those who died during participation in international missions.
The Georgian national anthem was performed by the National Guard Orchestra.
After the ceremony helicopters again flew over Rustaveli Avenue dropping greeting cards to wish people a happy May 26.
During the speeches, a group of a few radicals arrived on Freedom Square bringing posters from May 17, which is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, but no LGBT rights rally was held that day. Instead many people came out to mark the day of Family Values, as called by the patriarch. The same day, groups protested against anti-discrimination law which was recently adopted by parliament.
A large poster proclaiming “Homosexuality is a sin and pathology” appeared close to the stage organized in front of recruits in the middle of the square. Others held posters with messages like “Stop filthy LGBT propaganda” and “May 17 is Family Values Day”.
When we asked why they decided to bring these posters on May 26, one of them told us that someone has to “speak up against what is happening in the country and Independence Day is the right day to get more attention to this issue.”
There were not more than twenty protesters. After the oath ceremony, they walked through Rustaveli Avenue in peace.
During the day, there were many events on Tbilisi’s main street, including concerts of the national ballet, folk music and other performers. As is the tradition, military equipment was exhibited on Rustaveli Avenue for children to explore, and many of them were crawling around inside and outside on tanks and helicopters. There were many games for children, flower festival, handicraft markets and agricultural goods for sale.
In the end of the day, there were fireworks despite the heavy rain.
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