Top Georgian officials are meeting with activists and protest leaders in a bid to calm tensions after large drug raids at two Tbilisi night clubs sparked major demonstrations in the country’s capital.
The meeting follows a public apology from Gakharia following claims police had been overtly heavy-handed when they detained hundreds of innocent party-goers during raids at the Bassiani and Café Gallery nightclubs in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Tbilisi’s clubs have carved out a reputation as some of the most dynamic clubbing destinations in the former Soviet Union and Bassiani has won accolades for its famous Horoom queer night — but conservative political groups are known to oppose the development of the party scene.
The police operation prompted thousands of demonstrators to congregate outside the Georgian parliament on Rustaveli Avenue and many began dancing in the street as part of an impromptu weekend-long rave. Led by pro drug-liberalisation group White Noise, demonstrators called for the Prime Minister and the Interior Minister to resign and a revamp of Georgia’s drug laws.
The rally became increasingly tense following counter-demonstrations from far-right groups, many of whom were pictured wearing black shirts and maroon armbands. Counter-protesters, who were calling for action against “drug dealers and gay propagandists”, repeatedly attempted to break the police lines.
In his apology, Gakharia promised to review legislation and said that Georgians would “always be able to dance or listen to music in a free city.”
“I apologise not only on my behalf, but on behalf of any employee of the Interior Ministry who may have endangered you or your safety,” Gakharia said.
White Noise leader Beka Tsikarishvili has called off further demonstrations following the statement, but pledged that activists would “monitor progress” and return to the streets this coming Saturday if their demands were not met.