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1 May, 2024 23:36

WATCH protesters storm Georgia’s parliament (VIDEOS)

Demonstrations against a controversial ‘foreign agents’ bill continued in Tbilisi on Wednesday night
WATCH protesters storm Georgia’s parliament (VIDEOS)

Protesters clashed with police in the Georgian capital and tried to break into parliament on Wednesday night, as riots against a controversial ‘foreign agents’ bill continue. 

A large crowd gathered outside the national legislature in Tbilisi for a second night in a row, following clashes with riot police the night before, with activists waving Georgian and EU flags.

The capital has been thrown into turmoil by protests over a bill that would force organizations that receive more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as “foreign agents.” Lawmakers approved the measure in a second reading on Wednesday.

A group of protesters, some wearing ski masks, dismantled security fences and attempted to break into the parliamentary compound. Police responded with water cannons and pepper spray, pushing intruders from the gates. 

Some protesters were filmed brawling with officers and resisting arrest. According to Georgia’s First Channel, protesters erected barricades and blocked several roads in central Tbilisi. 

A total of 63 people were detained the previous night, when activists also clashed with police, Deputy Interior Minister Alexander Darakhvelidze told reporters.

The leading pro-Western opposition party, United National Movement, said its leader Levan Khabeishvili had been briefly “kidnapped” and beaten by police in the early hours of Wednesday. Khabeishvili attended a parliament session later that day with bandages on his nose and forehead.

The opposition has branded the controversial bill “a Russian law,” drawing a comparison with legislation that was passed in Russia in 2012 and has since been expanded. Opponents insist claim the government will use the legislation to crack down on dissent and independent media.

The ruling Georgian Dream party argues that the bill is closer to the US Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 and is in line with EU standards.

Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze defended the bill on Wednesday, claiming that NGOs and the media are exploiting their lack of transparency to “engage in activities that completely go against the interests of the Georgian state and society,” including “the propaganda of drugs and LGBT.” 

The government first introduced the bill last year, but was forced to withdraw it following protest and clashes.