Opposition Protesters of President Mikheil Saakashvili Were Violently Broken Up in Georgia’s Capital City of Tibilisi.
The protests, already lasting for several days, reached a heated pitch on the eve of a military march to commemorate Georgia’s 20th anniversary of independence, in which two policemen were killed in clashes with protesters.
Human Rights Watch called the use of force by Georgia’s riot police “excessive” and “disproportionate.”
Statements: Hillary & Saakashvili
During the independence day march President Mikheil Saakashvili explained:
“Our sacred value is freedom of speech and we’ll do everything to ensure that Georgian citizens, those who have LEGAL demands or complaints, are ALLOWED to express their opinion, express their protest at the government of Georgia, but what was going on in Tbilisi in the last few days had nothing to do with freedom of speech. These people, the political leaders together with their small groups of supporters, wanted to attack freedom of speech and democracy in Georgia.”
Somewhat ill-timed, and ironically, this statement was released today from US secretary of State Hillary Clinton, congratulating the people of Georgia on the anniversary of their county’s independence:
“On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am delighted to send best wishes to the people of Georgia as you celebrate your Independence.”
“Together, our two countries are promoting freedom around the world. We are especially grateful for Georgia’s commitment to the future of Afghanistan as our troops stand side by side on behalf of peace and security.”
Cut back to Saakashvili’s independence day address:
“They [the protesters] did not want freedom of speech, but violence and casualties. We must be clear-headed because these provocations are planned not inside, but outside the borders of our country [ie. Russia].”
And now again to Hillary Clinton’s statement:
“On this 20th anniversary of Georgia’s independence from the Soviet Union, we celebrate the bonds between our countries and people, and reaffirm our commitment to broadening and deepening this relationship. I wish all Georgians around the world a peaceful and prosperous year.”
A Little Background & Conclusion
This isn’t the first time the people of Georgia have called for Saakashvili’s head. In 2007, Saakashvili’s Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili was charged with extortion, money laundering, and abuse of office. In November of that year, 50,000-100,000 people staged a peaceful rally in Georgia’s capital city, Tbilisi, calling for Saakashvili’s resignation. Just like this week’s protests, the pro-Western Saakashvili administration deployed riot squads to crush the demonstrators then too.
On the 8th of August 2008, Georgia launched a large-scale military offensive against South Ossetia, in an attempt to reconquer the little territory from de-facto Russian rule. The war was disastrous for the Saakashvili administration, in the eyes of the people. They are tired of the lies and corruption, tired of the wars, and the politics of overidentification.
Like the uprisings of the Arab Spring, the people have grown wiser than the politicians, while the politicians, east and west, are scrambling to maintain the old hypocrisies, the old order, the old battle lines, whatever the cost.