Georgian Police Beat Protesters And Press, Seize Cameras
At the same time that the anti-government protests are blazing in Iran, anti-government protests are mounting in Georgia. Today, Georgian police forces have cracked down on opposition protesters in capital Tbilisi, beating them with batons and sticks. An AFP photographer got caught in the middle of the crackdown, witnessing the violence firsthand. It was reported that police seized cameras from photographers taking pictures. One photographer was badly beaten.
Amidst today's violence escalations in Iran, it is possible that the crackdown on protesters in Georgia will go unnoticed by main media. But today's crackdown is in fact a tipping point in the stalemate between Saakashvili's government and opposition leaders that started on April 9. Opposition leader Burjanadze argued that today's violence was caused by international community's failure to condemn Georgian authorities for arresting opposition supporters. Government officials said that protesters were blocking the public street and interfered with police arresting men accused of assaulting lawmakers in an earlier incident.
"We came here to hold a peaceful rally. When we arrived and started the protest the police immediately started to crack down, beating people with batons and sticks," one of the protesters, 22-year-old Levan Soselia, told AFP.
People were running to escape and the police were chasing us and beating us," he said.
Police seized cameras and other equipment from photographers attempting to cover the incident. At least one photographer was badly beaten.
Police seized cameras from photographers and cameramen, including a Reuters photographer. The cameras were later returned but the Reuters photographer's images had been erased. Other photographers said their memory cards had been taken.
Opposition leader Nino Burjanadze said the incident was "an attempt to provoke a civil confrontation."
At the scene, Burjanadze told AFP that the "crackdown" was a result of the international community's failure to condemn Georgian authorities for what the opposition claims are illegal arrests of its supporters.
Deputy Interior Minister Eka Zguladze said 39 protesters in all were rounded up because they had resisted police who tried to arrest several men accused of assaulting lawmakers in an earlier incident. They also were blocking a public street, she said.