Thousands of demonstrators danced in front of Georgia's parliament following the Saturday morning raids at Bassiani and Café Gallery.
Demonstrations began spontaneously in the hours immediately following the raids. "They gathered in front of parliament, you could not imagine how many police were there," said Mariam Murusidze, former booker at Café Gallery, who joined the protests early this morning. "We were there until maybe six in the morning, when an activist made a statement saying we should go home, gather our strength and come back at 3 PM."
At 1 PM, members of the White Noise Movement, an activist group closely linked with Bassiani, held a press conference with Bassiani cofounders Tato Getia and Zviad Gelbakhiani, both of whom were arrested in the raids. They demanded the resignation of Georgia's Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia, who had ordered the raids, as well as Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili.
Protesters set up a soundsystem on the steps of Parliament Of Georgia for the 3 PM demonstrations. DJs from Friday's party at Bassiani (Ateq, Sa Pa and DJ Dustin) played for a crowd that filled the area in front of parliament and blocked Rustavali Avenue. The crowd was estimated include thousands of people.
Demonstrators demanded an official statement from the government by 10 PM, but received only a comment from Mayor Kakha Kaladze, who called for the club community to fight drug trafficking together with local authorities and vaguely conceded that the style of the raids had been controversial. Unsatisfied, protesters vowed to remain in the square until their demands were met. By midnight, they were pitching tents in the rain, preparing to spend the night.
Georgian police said the Saturday morning raids were an attempt to round up drug dealers in response to recent drug-related deaths in Tbilisi, but many in the club scene interpreted them as a general display of force against their community. At around 8:30 PM Saturday night, Nino Iomjaria, a public defender working on the case, revealed that the eight drug dealers who had allegedly been the police's targets had already been arrested by 10 PM on Friday. This was hours before the raids on Bassiani and Café Gallery began, raising further questions as to why those raids took place.
We'll have more on this story as it develops.
Photo credit: Matthew Collin