‘We can be on the path to the EU or to Belarus’: Political thug culture grips Georgia

Meanwhile, Parliamentary Speaker Shalva Papuashvili has threatened to crack down on the demonstrators — announcing plans to create a database of those he says are “involved in violence, illegal activities, intimidation and blackmail or approve of such behavior.”

The database would be published online to name and shame those accused of transgressions. Critics see it as yet another move to discredit the government’s opponents.

Georgian Dream did not responded to repeated requests for comment.

Thousands of demonstrators marching against the bill on “Foreign Agents” in the Georgian capital Tbilisi on May 11. | Daro Sulakauri/Getty Images

On Tuesday, as the Georgian parliament voted 84-30 in favor of the bill, thousands gathered outside the legislature in central Tbilisi to drown out proceedings with a chorus of whistles, vuvuzelas and banging pots and pans. Riot police dispersed the crowds with water cannon and a sonic weapon. Authorities arrested dozens, deploying teargas against peaceful protesters, and have been accused of beating detainees.

At the edge of the rally, several men in black, wearing masks, accosted journalists and bystanders, taking pictures of those present in an apparent bid to intimidate them. Asked by POLITICO to identify themselves and explain their side of the debate, they remained silent and continued to photograph attendees.

Georgian Dream has been warned by its U.S. and EU partners that adoption of the bill will harm Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations.

U.S. State Department Assistant Secretary Jim O’Brien warned of potential sanctions after Tuesday’s vote.

“‘If the law goes forward, out of conformity with EU norms, and there’s undermining of democracy here, and there’s violence against peaceful protesters, then we’ll see restrictions coming from the U.S. These tend to be financial and travel restrictions on the individuals responsible for these actions and their families.”


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