Georgia protests: Riot police face off against foreign influence bill demonstrators

Overnight protests in Georgia continued into the morning in an attempt to finally block the approval of the controversial law.

Security forces withdrew from the main square on Monday morning after protesters clashed in front of Tbilisi’s parliament.

Demonstrators are protesting the controversial foreign influence law, which critics call the “Russia Law”.

The final vote on the bill will take place on Tuesday.

On Monday morning, Georgia Dream lawmakers voted on it in committee and passed it in just 67 seconds.

The bill – currently in its third and final reading – targets civil society organizations and independent media that receive foreign funding.

Protesters fear the government will use the law to stifle dissent and damage Georgia’s hopes of joining the European Union.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators spent the night outside the parliament building in Tbilisi, dancing through the dark hours in the rain.

As the sun rose on Monday, the representatives of the ruling party, who arrived before the session, were greeted with shouts and songs about “slaves” and “Russians”.

Police forces equipped with shields and water cannons were deployed inside the building to prevent protesting lawmakers from entering the parliament building for the new law to take effect.

Photos and footage on the Internet show violent clashes between protesters and police.

According to the Georgian Interior Ministry, two American citizens and one Russian were also among the 20 people arrested during the protest, Russian state news reported.

Protesters plan to continue making noise during the House session, hoping that the noise will encourage lawmakers to reconsider voting for the law.

Opponents of the bill say the measures are inspired by legislation passed in Russia in 2012, which they say has since been used to crack down on people critical of the Kremlin.

This bill would require non-governmental organizations and media to register as “organizations serving the interests of a foreign power” if more than 20% of their funding comes from abroad.

According to the ruling Georgian Dream party, the measure would increase transparency and protect Georgia’s sovereignty.

Thousands march over foreign influence law in Georgia
Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze vowed on Sunday that his party would successfully implement it despite mass protests that began nearly a month ago.
The country’s opposition leaders called on Britain to do more to fight the law and urged Foreign Secretary David Cameron to oppose it.

Last week the US said it was “deeply concerned” about the treatment of protesters and called for an independent investigation into “reports of harassment and physical violence”.

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said that Georgia wants a “European future” and urged the legislators to “stay on the road to Europe”.

The EU granted Georgia candidate status in December, but warned that the draft law could jeopardize progress in the bloc.

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