TBILISI, DFWatch–Police on Thursday published footage from street surveillance cameras which shows how participants in a May Day rally damaged private property by spray painting slogans on city walls and damaging police cars and private cars.
The students who protested do not refuse that they spray painted the walls, but claim that police abused their powers while dispersing the rally and detaining some of the participants.
The footage released by the ministry shows some of the protesters writing slogans on the walls of TBC Bank, Georgian Manganese and also other walls along Marjanishvili Avenue in the center of Tbilisi.
May 1, the youth group Laboratoria 1918 organized a demonstration in order to express their solidarity with workers who work under slave-like conditions, and protest against the Georgian labor code. Demonstrators blocked traffic on several roads, while the police attempted to force them onto the sidewalk.
Eventually, demonstrators and policemen engaged in a scuffle which resulted in the detention of about 20 protesters and injured several minors. Police detained several people who were standing on the sidewalk at a time when the road had been cleared, a fact which participants at the protest claim was a violation.
Members of the group posted footage which show certain persons dressed in civilian clothes who act like police and participate in detaining demonstrators. They question who these people were.
Laboratoria 1918 on Thursday issued a statement in response, which confirms that their members painted messages on several buildings, but the group also argues that the police didn’t have the right to exceed their powers.
“We wrote messages on buildings which belong to companies who are responsible for different social problems, for example Georgian Manganese, where people (coal and manganese miners) work for 300 GEL (USD 180) for 17 hours,” the statement says, adding that the same statements were done on walls of some pharmaceutical offices and some banks.
“By the way, footage released by the ministry shows well how policemen use violence.”
The organization also explains the reason why they damaged a car. The students had blocked the road and a car drove into the crowd of demonstrators.
“We suggested to the driver that we would give him way to drive and let him pass, but he sped up and attempted to hit the demonstrators, which caused a protesters’ fury.”
Minister of Internal Affairs Irakli Gharibashvili on Thursday said that the police acted just like it had to act. He also said ‘it is a pity’ that a peaceful demonstration transformed into an unorganized and chaotic rally.
Police protected the public order, he said.
“Several rally participants were remarkably aggressive,” the interior minister noted. “Everyone should remember their own duties and defend the law.”
Gharibashvili said he is sorry that journalists got into the incident, but police wasn’t able to find out who was journalist and who was not.
“We are the government. This is a state. Accordingly we should choose the right way. I appeal to people, if you want chaos you should support yesterday’s unpleasant forms. But if you want a peaceful state, you should be objective and on the side of truth. The police endured more than enough.”