Georgians Mark One Year Since Anti-Russia Protests
June 20, 2020 22:06 GMT – By RFE/RL
Thousands of protesters gathered peacefully on June 20 in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, to mark the one-year anniversary of anti-Russia demonstrations that were violently put down by the government.
The protest was the first mass event in Georgia since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
To encourage social distancing, organizers placed stickers with the image of Russian President Vladimir Putin spaced apart on the ground and encouraging protesters to step on his face. Most protesters wore masks and organizers provided disinfectant hand gel.
Public anger boiled over on June 20, 2019, when Russian lawmaker Sergei Gavrilov addressed parliament, in Russian, from the speaker’s chair during a meeting of lawmakers from Orthodox countries.
The incident touched a nerve with many in Georgia, which fought a brief war with Russia in 2008. Russia still occupies the two breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Led by the opposition, the protest in front of parliament a year ago descended into violence when riot police fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons.
More than 240 people were injured, including more than 30 journalists and 80 policemen. Several protesters were injured in the eye.
The protests continued for days as demonstrators demanded the resignation of the government and those responsible for ordering the police response.
The government justified the use of force because protesters had tried to storm the parliament building.