TBILISI, DFWatch – Marking a break with single issue campaigning, rights groups in Tbilisi Saturday held a demonstration for solidarity and people power.
The demonstration was called Civic Solidarity Campaign and consisted of six human chains on six squares in the capital, and for six causes: human rights, fair elections, free media, better environment, better education system and for protecting the cultural heritage of the country.
The demonstrations saw participation from local groups and the media, as well as students and ordinary citizens.
Georgian Young Lawyers Association took part in the action which made a human chain around Saakadze Square in the central part of the capital. The topic for that rally was human rights, and their main messages were, first, to investigate a number of deaths in Georgia lately, the Kimeridze case, the Girgvliani case; secondly, against torture and mistreatment in the prisons; third, a number of cases when the police have beat journalists and intervened in their activity; fourth, the violent dispersal of a peaceful anti-government protest on May 26 in front of parliament.
“Speak up against the torture,” the protesters say.
The participants tied themselves in a circle around the statue of the historic Georgian general Giorgi Saakadze with a yellow ribbon saying ‘stop torture’.
“Our main audience is people and the message is to demand to protect human rights and demand to investigate murder cases and torture cases,” Tatuli Dolidze from GYLA says.
“Human rights is a very wide sphere; so today we decided to focus on requesting investigation of certain cases.”
A youth organization to protect student’s rights also joined the human rights rally, because they consider students’ rights part of the human rights field and since there are many problems in the education sphere they decided to express their protest here, together with young lawyers.
Meanwhile, students and young activists gathered on a square near Vake Park protesting the expensive tuition fee at universities and against the latest events at Tbilisi State University, where student union representatives beat students for expressing their mind and for criticizing both the union and the education system at TSU.
“Knowledge is not a product for selling,” some of their posters read. They request free education.
A bit further from Vake Park, organizations working for election environment made a human chain as a symbol for their demand to have free and fair elections. The majority were from the campaign This Affects You Too, which was started in February by non-governmental and media organizations.
The campaign aims to amend the law about political union of citizens, which was adopted by parliament at the end of December 2012. Campaigners claim the law violates freedom, property rights, rights to political activism, freedom of assembly and democracy in general, even applying criminal law responsibility to voters during an election year.
Irakli Melashvili, a member of the Coalition for Free Choice, tells DF Watch that this is a very nice beginning of civic activism. Many locals joined the rally for fair elections, ordinary citizens who aren’t members of any organization but just people who want to fight for their rights.
“We hope that all these will bring us to changes, which are so necessary for this country,” he said.
Later the same day at 17:00 all six rally participants gathered on Gudiashvili Square, which lately has become a place for protests first of all to protect the square from an uncertain fate, but also sheltering others, who want to appeal to a larger audience and say what they want to say.
Gudiashvili square yesterday was crowded as never before. The variable March weather changed from a warm morning into a cold windy day, but this didn’t make people leave.
All the people with posters gathered together. In one corner young people request to protect environment and not to repeat what happened in Kikvidze Park; in the center there are people wearing This Affects You Too t-shirts and holding balloons, while students coming all along Tbilisi entered the square, shouting and blowing whistles, and shouting through megaphones.
Cold and hot drinks still were ready to cheer people up on the square. A man played a violin, and some were dancing.
Aleko Elisashvili from Tiflis Hamkari, a group to protect Tbilisi’s cultural heritage, summed up the six events of the day and informed about the latest news regarding Gudiashvili square itself.