Batumi Calm After Saturday Clashes

BATUMI – The situation in Georgia’s Black Sea city, Batumi, is calm today, after last night’s clashes between protesters and law enforcement, that left more than 30 injured and around 40 detained.

The confrontation began when a man refused to accept a fine for parking in the wrong location. After this the man and his companion were arrested for disobeying a policemen. A large protest ensued, including hundreds of locals, who gathered at the police department and demanded the release of the detained and the resignation of the police head.

According to the media, police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets to the stone-throwing rioters, mostly young people, who damaged police cars, ruined infrastructure, and set fire to nearby vehicles.

Media reports quote opposition politicians as saying the citizens of Batumi have been angered by what they see as disproportionately high fines by police for minor traffic offenses.

A total of 33 people required medical attention. 15 of them were members of law enforcement. The investigation into the case is underway.

Later the Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili stated that upon the request of Zurab Pataridze, Head of Adjara Government, every person under administrative detention has been released until this issue is thoroughly investigated in order to avoid further tension.

This incident shows how a harmless, everyday occurrence has been used by destructive political forces to escalate a situation. Unfortunately, these forces are willing to undermine the very foundation of stability in the country-they intentionally provoke acts of vandalism, abuse representatives of state authorities who have been instructed by us to maintain minimum-level response in order to avert possible complications,” the PM said and urged everyone to obey the law and respect the state institutions.

Moreover, today Kvirikashvili visited Batumi and the Interior Ministry detachments in order to ensure order in Batumi's streets after last night.

Kvirikashvili thanked the law enforcement for establishing order and avoiding further escalation of the situation. The Prime Minister reiterated that the state severely punish those who violate the law and disrespect its institutions.

"I thank you for your heroism and patience. Law enforcement officers use as much force as necessary to maintain stability and protect the rights of our citizens[...]I want you to know it and to be proud because last night we walked a tightrope, but now we can say proudly that we have used just enough force to maintain stability in the country,” Kvirikashvili told Batumi law enforcers.

The PM also visited those injured and hospitalized after the last night's clashes. After, Kvirikashvili spoke with locals on Batumi Boulevard. According to Batumi residents, despite the provocation, the incident was defused as peacefully as possible.


 By Thea Morrison

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12 March 2017 17:35