|Protesters outside Parliament, September 28.|
Opposition leaders said they were encouraged by the large number of people at the rally and vowed to continue their protests to challenge Okruashvili’s arrest.
“Today was a huge success,” Gia Tsagareishvili, a lawmaker and member of Okruashvili’s new party, Movement for United Georgia, told Civil.Ge. “Today we have demonstrated that we can also manage to gather ten thousand people.”
Kakha Kukava, a lawmaker from the opposition Conservative Party, said an organizing committee had been set up by the parties involved in the campaign to coordinate future action.
“This committee will convene now to discuss a concrete action plan,” he told Civil.Ge. “I do not think we will hold a rally tomorrow, but we will definitely continue the protests.”
The committee involves representatives from the Conservative, Republican, Labor, Party of People and Georgia’s Way parties, as well as activists from the human rights group Equality Institute.
The opposition New Rights Party has refused to join the campaign.
“We will not take part in this,” MP Davit Gamkrelidze, leader of the New Rights Party, said on September 28. “What will change for the country if Saakashvili’s mafia is replaced by Okruashvili’s mafia? Will [Okruashvili] build a liberal democracy? Of course not.”
Calls for the release of Okruashvili, as well as for early parliamentary and presidential elections, were the main themes at the rally, which was the largest in recent years.
|Riot police, although deployed, remained
at a distance from Parliament.
In a written message to supporters, read out at the protest rally by lawmaker Koka Guntsadze, Okruashvili called for unity.
“Get united and fight for your rights,” the message reads. “Fight to get rid of this tyrant, but through legal means.”
There was no major trouble reported at the rally, except for some minor scuffles between protesters and police when the protesters spilled out onto Rustaveli Avenue, blocking Tbilisi's main thoroughfare in front of the parliament.
Up to twelve bus loads of riot policemen were standing by at the Rose Square, less than a couple of kilometers from Parliament.
Earlier on September 28 the leaders of the ruling National Movement Party warned opposition politicians to show restraint. There had been calls from certain opposition figures for the population to “get rid of Saakashvili’s regime” and “oust” President Saakashvili.
“Yesterday I heard several times the word ‘ouster.’ I want to warn everyone: the state’s response in the event of any violent action will be very severe,” Giga Bokeria, a lawmaker from the ruling party, said. “Of course it will be within the law, but very severe.”
“Georgia is not on fire as some say,” MP Davit Kirkitadze from the ruling party said in a reference to remarks made by Okruashvili on September 25. “And those who try to set fire to the country will be dealt with appropriately by the state.”
There has been no official comment from the ruling party on the rally yet.