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13 May, 2018 21:24

Rave revolution: Protesters call for removal of Georgia PM over ‘baseless’ nightclub raids

Rave revolution: Protesters call for removal of Georgia PM over ‘baseless’ nightclub raids

When authorities in Georgia ordered raids on two nightclubs in the capital of Tbilisi, they could never have expected the party to be brought to them in protest.

That’s exactly what happened when around 4,000 protesters from a group called ‘White Noise’ turned up at the Georgian state parliament, many with speakers pumping out dance music, to demonstrate against police violence. Footage from the demonstration shows protesters engaged in a sort of makeshift rave, setting up tents and showcasing their best dance moves outside the state house.

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The protest was sparked after clubgoers complained of being subjected to “excessive force” by police after officers stormed the nightclubs Bassiani and Cafe Gallery on Saturday morning. The Georgian Interior Ministry said eight suspected drug dealers were arrested in the raids.

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Critics have branded the raid as an attack on the city’s growing club culture, and they are now calling for the resignation of Georgia’s interior minister and prime minister. "The only thing they've been trying to do lately is to turn public opinion against humane drug policies," activist Beka Tsikarishvili told broadcaster RFE/RL.

Mamuka Chelidze, the head of the criminal police department, has hit back at claims that the raids were arbitrary, saying that the nightclubs were being monitored by police. “The interior ministry has been conducting intensive investigative measures for the last three months to establish the facts of the drug trade in Bassiani and Gallery nightclubs,” Chelidze said in a statement cited by Reuters.

Extra police have been mobilized to prevent clashes between the protesters and a 1,000-strong group of counter-protesters, some of whom are reportedly from the far-right Georgian National Unity Party. Local media reports that a water cannon has been brought in to contain the far-right group after they attempted to break the line of police separating the two factions.

White Noise activists reportedly met with Minister of Internal Affairs Giorgi Mgebrishvili in an attempt to peacefully resolve the dispute. In a televised address shortly afterward, Mgebrishvili apologized to the protesters and promised to bring about changes to the country’s drug laws.

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