|Opposition, police clash in Tbilisi|
|May 06, 2009|
Police and protesters clashed in a Tbilisi suburb on the evening of May 6 after pop star/opposition agitator Gia Gachechiladze jumped a police administration building gate in a bid to visit three youth activists who had been arrested earlier for assaulting a television journalist.
Television coverage showed Gachechiladze, who goes by the stage name Utsnobi (the Stranger), jumping the gate and running toward the building’s entrance. Occasionally using batons, riot police moved up to the gate when protesters tried to follow. An opposition coalition has been staging daily protests since early April in a bid to force President Mikheil Saakashvili’s resignation.
Former presidential candidate Levan Gachechiladze, Gia’s brother, was shown seated, slightly stunned, bleeding from a head wound. Another ex-presidential contender, Gia Maisashvili, was also shown bleeding heavily from the head, yelling at police. In addition, Davit Gamkrelidze, leader of the New Rights Party, a member of the Alliance for Georgia led by former United Nations ambassador Irakli Alasania, suffered injuries.
Utsnobi’s location is unknown.
Former parliamentary speaker Nino Burjanadze took a loud speaker to call for calm, asking activists to step back from the gate and not to give in to "a provocation."
Some participants appeared to have been hit in the eyes or upper head by unknown objects.
An agitated Sozar Subari, Georgia’s Ombudsman, appeared on camera at the scene to demand the resignation of Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili for the clash. Holding up a small, rough-edged rock, he charged that police had used the objects against protesters. Other activists have claimed that plastic bullets were used.
Protesters have since used a truck to block the main highway leading from Tbilisi to the suburb, Dighomi.
Deputy Interior Minister Eka Zguladze asserted that police had shown restraint, even though they had "every right" to take firm action to maintain order. No arrests have been made, she said. Six police officers were wounded in the scuffle.
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