September 20, 2019 / 6:18 PM / a month ago

Thousands gather in Tbilisi for protest against Georgian government

Georgian opposition supporters attend an anti-government rally in Tbilisi, Georgia September 20, 2019. REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze

TBILISI (Reuters) - Thousands of people gathered in the center of Georgian capital Tbilisi on Friday for a protest against the government and ruling Georgian Dream Party, three months after the brutal dispersal of an anti-Kremlin demonstration.

The demonstration was organized by young activists who have been holding daily protests outside the parliament building for the past three months and drawing thousands at their peak.

Protestors were blowing vuvuzelas and holding placards reading “Together against one!”, referring to ruling party leader Bidzina Ivanishvili, an oligarch who critics accuse in ruling the country from behind the scenes.

“We should unite and finish this government,” Shota Digmelashvili, one of the protest organizers, told the crowd.

The protest movement has presented Georgia’s government with the biggest domestic challenge to its authority in years and ahead of 2020 parliamentary election.

It erupted in June when a visiting Russian lawmaker was allowed to address the Georgian parliament from the speaker’s chair, in Russian, touching a nerve in a country that fought a war with Russia 11 years ago.

The rally outside parliament on June 20 descended into violent clashes with police, who used tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters.

The opposition and anti-government activists and supporters were angered further this month when parliament approved a new government led by Russian-educated former interior minister Giorgi Gakharia and has been calling for his resignation since the June 20 police crackdown.

Reporting by Margarita Antidze; Editing by David Goodman

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