|Georgian police raid opposition tent camp|
|June 19, 2009|
TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — Georgian police moved in early Friday to shut down a tent camp outside the presidential residence and arrested six activists.
Several dozen opposition supporters had been camped outside President Mikhail Saakashvili's official residence for two months, sleeping in small tents and metal cages meant to symbolize prison cells. The demonstration was part of a broader, ongoing protest movement aimed at forcing Saakashvili to resign.
Opposition leaders said police in masks turned the tents upside down and threw mattresses onto the street. Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili confirmed the raid, but said police had moved in to prevent a clash with residents from getting out of control.
Six activists were arrested on minor charges and were being held in custody, Utiashvili said.
People who live near the presidential residence have complained about the disruption caused by the demonstrators, who have blocked some of the neighborhood's narrow streets.
Opposition leaders said Saakashvili's government was emboldened to take action after Western diplomats criticized protesters who threw eggs at the parliament speaker's car.
"There were no such incidents earlier," said opposition leader Nino Burdzhanadze, speaking on Maestro television. "So why in the past three days has there been one after another? Well, it doesn't matter, it's a temporary development. I assure, these small victories of Saakashvili will put him in a more difficult situation."
Police in recent days have removed the opposition's mock cell from other sites in Tbilisi, the capital.
Opposition leaders vowed to continue their daily protests, which began April 9. Their criticism of Saakashvili focuses on his democratic record and handling of last year's war with Russia.
Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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