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Anti-Police Riot Erupts in Georgia

By Mushvig Mehdiyev March 13, 2017


Rioters set police cars on fire in an anti-police march in Batumi, Georgia, March 11 / AFP

A quarrel between a police officer and a driver in Georgia’s Batumi city on Saturday, March 11, escalated to a violent uproar, and included police cars set on fire, protesters put behind bars, and the country’s prime minister coming to the scene.

The unrest erupted mid-day after residents of Batumi came to support the driver against what they called “harsh” police behavior. The incident resulted in the detention of six protesters, considered the last drop that fueled the mass disorder in Georgia’s second largest city, as the crowd marched to the regional police headquarters. Protesters demanded release of the six detained and dismissal of Kakhaber Bukhradze, the region’s police chief – seen as the main antagonist – whom protesters believe stands behind excessive police practices.

The riot reached its climax overnight when the central Chavchavadze Avenue staged severe clashes between the police and locals, who burnt police cars in an aggressive reaction to police suppression. Police dispersed the rally earlier in the day after rioters left the center of the city. Nearly 40 protesters were detained. The unrest left 30 injured, including 11 police officers, according to local sources.

On Sunday, Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili arrived on the scene to check out the situation on the ground, the government's press service reported. The premier lauded the police for their successful operations to bring back public order and avoid any further escalation.

While looking into the reason behind the sudden uproar, Kvirikiashvili hinted at “destructive political forces,” whom he blamed for turning an ordinary daily event into an intense standoff between the police and the people. The minister vowed to “ensure peace, stability and a peaceful environment, by all means.”

Later, Georgia’s Interior Ministry issued an order to release the six detained.