TBILISI, DFWatch–Around twenty police and protesters are injured after a riot broke out in Batumi, Georgia, Saturday evening over a disagreement about a parking fine.
The riot began after a man refused to accept a fine for parking in the wrong place and was detained by police after arguing with them.
Accounts of what happened next vary, but what is known is that the conflict escalated and that six men were arrested.
Later, hundreds of mostly men gathered outside the police station demanding the release of the arrested men and the resignation of the police leadership.
Riot police was called in to defuse the situation. Around midnight local time there were reports that the police were using tear gas against the protesters.
A video which appears to have been filmed from inside the police station shows a rain of rocks hurled at the building and at a column of retreating riot police carrying shields.
Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Besik Amiranashvili said riot police had to resort to the use of force after demonstrators began throwing stones at the police.
Several police officers and an unknown number of protesters were injured. He said police agreed to release the detained men but demonstrators still continued throwing stones.(Article continues below.)
The director of the central hospital in Batumi said 11 people have been hospitalized, three of whom have possible symptoms of gas poisoning. The rest have bruises and other injuries.
According to Zaal Mikeladze, the health minister for the autonomous Adjara region, altogether 11 policemen and 10 demonstrators have been injured.
A representative of the Ombudsman’s Office told Channel 1 after visiting the detained men that they say they have not been physically mistreated.
Georgia’s minister of internal affairs later ordered the release of the six who were detained at the start of the evening, upon request by the head of government of the Adjara autonomous region, Zurab Pataradze.
Opposition politicians claim people in Batumi lately have grown irritated by the ‘unreasonably’ high fines they are being issued by the police in the Black Sea resort city.
After his release, the receiver of the parking fine, Jimi Varshanidze, recounted how he had parked his car near Batumi Plaza Hotel on Chavchavadze Avenue in the center of Batumi, in order to go to a nearby drug store. When he returned to his car, the police were there, and he was fined.
After a verbal altercation, he was arrested for disobeying police.
Varshanidze said he had just visited the grave of his late brother with members of his family and maybe this factor contributed to the conflict.