The opposition leaders said on May 12 that they would hold a large-scale “public parade” on May 26 to mark Georgia’s Independence Day and vowed they would not let the authorities to hold an annual military parade on Rustaveli Avenue – key venue of the ongoing protests.
“May 26 will be a new April 9,” Levan Gachechiladze, an individual opposition leader, told the protesters outside the Parliament on May 12, referring to the first day of the protests when tens of thousands of people gathered at the rally.
He said that the opposition supporters would gather at Boris Paichadze National Stadium and then march towards the Rustaveli Avenue on May 26.
Gachechiladze said that the stadium was chosen in order to clearly demonstrate large numbers of opposition supporters. He said that it would be easier to define turnout if people gathered in the stadium. The all-seater national stadium has capacity of up to 60,000.
Traditionally, the Independence Day in Georgia is marked with a parade with soldiers and military hardware marching down the Rustaveli Avenue outside the Parliament.
When Levan Gachechiladze announced that the opposition wanted its supporters to gather in the stadium, instead of traditional protest venue outside the Parliament, some protesters questioned the decision suggesting that the opposition deliberately made such a decision to let the authorities hold a military parade on the Rustaveli Avenue. Gachechiladze, however, told the protesters that the opposition did not plan to remove ‘cells.’
“Only the raid [by the authorities] can remove ’cells’ from here,” Gachechiladze said. “If they use force, they will meet adequate force here.”
Salome Zourabichvili, leader of Georgia’s Way, said “they will have to roll over my head before removing these ‘cells’.”
Tina Khidasheli of the Republican Party, part of Alliance for Georgia, told the rally: “We have gained the right to stand here on the main avenue and to celebrate and not the man, who is living in total ignorance mode.”
“We want to stand here on May 26 not because we have kind of a whim of doing so,” she continued, “but because we do not want the man [reference to President Saakashvili], who was running away from his illusionary bombing [referring to the incident that occurred in Gori on August 11, 2008] to review parade of the Georgian army.”
The opposition parties, behind the ongoing protests, have sent a notification to the Tbilisi municipality informing that they were planning to continue rallies at least till May 26. The municipality is expected to respond on May 13.
According to the law a local municipality can reject organizers’ notification about their intention to hold a demonstration in case other event is already planned at a venue indicated by organizers.
The opposition leader also said on May 12, that they were rejecting “inadequate” proposals by President Saakashvili and had no plans to engage in work of a planned commission, which will work on the constitutional reform.
Most of the leaders also said that it was “senseless” to continue dialogue with the President, because he was not acknowledging existence of crisis in the country.
Salome Zourabichvili, leader of Georgia’s Way, told the rally on May 12, that Saakashvili “is politically insane” ruled by his inner circle, which she described as “a criminal gang.”
Irakli Alasania, leader of Alliance for Georgia, however, said on May 12, that although positions of the opposition and the authorities differed significantly on existing situation in the country, he still believed that the dialogue was needed in parallel to ongoing protests.