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24 Apr, 2009 10:49

Georgian protest to enter ‘active phase’

The Georgian opposition has promised that their protests are entering the ‘active phase,’ threatening to distract Mikhail Saakashvili's ability to move around the capital.

“The opposition is beginning active pursuit of the president,” said Eka Beseliya, leader of the ‘For a United Georgia’ movement, inviting supporters to report on the president's whereabouts, and to block his motorcade.

In the first act of the ‘active phase,’ opposition activists thwarted Saakashvili’s late dinner in a Tbilisi café. Ten minutes after the president arrived for a snack, the opposition started a rally just outside of the building. They were throwing carrots and cabbages around to taunt their opponent, whom they dub ‘a rabbit’.

A scuffle between them and the police followed, with Saakashvili ‘fleeing with his bodyguards,’ as one of the witnesses said. The fight resulted in one policeman being wounded, and two opposition activists being detained.

The move followed president Saakashvili’s attempt to stop the protests which demand his resignation, and persuade the opposition to join efforts to tackle the economic crisis.

“I am prepared to cooperate with all the political forces, including the most radical of them,” the president told workers at a factory near Tbilisi. “Georgia now needs our unity, not conflicts.”

TV station targeted

The opposition is planning to target not only officials, but also employees of the state TV channel, which they accuse of ‘one-sided and incomplete’ reporting on the protests, and call for the resignation of its head, Levan Kubaneishvili.

The activists are planning to organize ‘corridors of conscience’ in front of the station’s building. They will not hinder the journalists on their way in and out, the opposition added.

Garbage standoff

Earlier, a row over garbage collection was sparked between the protestors and Tbilisi authorities. The collection service accused the opposition of attacking their staff when they tried to clean the site of the rally in front of the parliament building on April 11. The opposition, for their part, reported that unidentified people tried to dismantle the stage, and damage equipment used by the protestors.

On Thursday, Tbilisi police confiscated from the opposition activists a car, along with garbage they picked up in the city.

Earlier, opposition leaders announced that 10,000 of their new supporters had arrived in Tbilisi from the western and eastern parts of Georgia, and joined the rally outside the parliament.

The rallies began again on April 9, when thousands of protesters blocked streets around the parliament, and set up camps outside the president's residence, calling for him to step down.

Opposition activists are on duty around the clock. They stay in tents and “cell cages,” which they say symbolize Georgia's transformation into a police state.

Lately, there have been complaints that authorities are trying to stop the protests by shutting down electricity throughout the country.