Riot police with batons used tear gas and a water cannon on Wednesday to clear thousands of demonstrators from the streets of Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, using extensive force in the face of protests against the country's pro-Western government.We're reading C. J. Chivers via the International Herald Tribune:
People who fled the clouds of tear gas reported that police had rushed through Rustaveli Avenue, the city's main boulevard, and had beaten demonstrators who had not managed to escape. There were no immediate reports of the extent of injuries, but many protesters were seen bleeding.
Georgia protests erupt in violence as police try to clear demonstrators
The police also scuffled with journalists covering the confrontation, and confiscated or shattered some of their equipment, witnesses said. The police sweep cleared Rustaveli Avenue at least temporarily, but the violence marked an intensive challenge to the government and reputation of President Mikheil Saakashvili, who rose to power with peaceful protests in 2003 and has cast himself as the most democratic ruler in the Caucasus.Yeah, sure! They did! They wanted to get hurt! Really!!
The opposition has accused him of running centralized government intolerant of dissent and undermined by high-level corruption and abuse by police and prosecutors. Opposition leaders appeared undeterred after the clashes. They labeled the action a political crackdown and mass punishment, and called for Georgians to gather in renewed protests.
The protestors, who first gathered in front of Parliament last Friday, had initially demanded early Parliamentary elections and other measures that might relax what they regard as the government's centralized hold on power and allow a degree of political plurality.
But after Saakashvili ignored the demonstrators for nearly three days, and then publicly belittled their leaders on national television and said they were doing the bidding of the Kremlin, the demonstrators roundly demanded that he resign.
"The authorities have used weapons against the peaceful demonstrators, and therefore the authorities will get what they deserve from the people," Kakka Kukava, an opposition member of Parliament, told journalists, according to the Interfax news agency.
"What happened this morning was very regrettable," Giga Bokeria, a prominent member of Parliament and close ally of President Saakashvili, said by telephone. He accused opposition leaders of urging the protestors to rush the police, which he said triggered the violence and bedlam that ensued.
"They behaved very badly," he said. "They just openly called for violence."
There's more here.