On Friday night, May 11th, the Georgian government sent in a fully armed SWAT team into the most popular night clubs in the Capital. They called it a “drug raid” which occurred due several young adults passing away from drugs over the last couple of weeks.
These raids happened in Bassiani, the second most popular club in all of Europe, and Gallery. The clubs have existed for years and have gained international acknowledgment due to the free spirit and the music. I’ve personally heard a lot of people say that they “..felt more comfortable at the club than at home.” Since I haven’t lived in Georgia for a while I never had a chance to party at the club, and funnily enough this Friday was supposed to be my first time. All of my friends had bought the tickets already and we were planning on going there around 3am. The raid happened around 12am.
During this raid the SWAT team had everyone in the night club down on the floor with their hands behind their heads before kicking them out of the venue. Some people who were in the club or went to protest in front of the club got arrested, one of the owners also was taken into custody and the government never made a comment about this situation. We watched a portion of this on live TV the same night, and the shots were so shocking that the youth decided to throw a peaceful protest the very next day.
On May 12th at 15:00 (GMT+4), the youth gathered on the Freedom Square in front of the parliament building. I was there from the beginning, and was amazed at how well we handled this situation. With numerous speeches given by citizens of all ages and the enormous support coming from the people standing there as one. The number of people kept increasing as time went by. Our demands were to stop unnecessary violence and to give people the freedom we deserve.
I heard a lot of conspiracy theories at this protest, some saying that this was staged by the right-wing to stop Georgia from joining the EU and to go back to Russia, some even said that all of this happened because of money and the thriving business which was harmful to other businesses, or due to homophobic and backwards people considering clubbing a disgrace to the youth. I don’t know what the actual situation was, all I know is that the drug dealers they wanted so much were not arrested at the club, but somewhere else. All of the violence from that night was unnecessary and the government yet has to make a comment about this.
The protest started small, we were standing on the pavement right in front of the parliament building. There was a lot of police standing by the road keeping the protest tight. As more people started to gather, I started to worry about some violence from the police. But the protest organizers kept the crowd very calm with their speeches, keeping us fired up but also reminding us that this was a peaceful protest. Soon enough, one of the speechmakers asked the police to let us take over one side of the street. The people started moving in towards the center, and amazingly enough we got a hold of half of the street with police backing away very peacefully. In gratitude, we gave them the loudest cheer and a loud applause. Now a line of police officers was standing in the middle of the street.
In this picture you can see a long line of police officers (the men wearing all black with a yellow stripe) right next to the cars. This happened between 17-18:00.
But it was only the beginning. More people showed up standing up for our freedom, and even though there was some provocation from the right-wing, we managed to keep the protest very peaceful. There was a man there walking around swearing at the youth, and a fight almost broke out, but the young girl that was making a speech started yelling to put our hands up, so the whole crowd stood there in silence and held up their hands. The fight stopped. The girl kept reminding us “they will curse at you, but we will not curse them back. They will hit you, but we will not hit them back. We are here to show that we deserve our freedom, and that we will do not condone violence. We are standing against everything that happened that night, and we will not become one of them by hurting each other. We are one.” The provocateurs soon left the protest.
As the crowd grew larger, around 19:00, one of the organizers made the most heartwarming speech. He said “We are here for a reason. We are here to show everyone that we can achieve peace without violence. We are standing here for our freedom to express ourselves, to love whoever we want, to stand together as a team and help this country grow. We are asking the police to give us the whole street. We are here peacefully and do not want to fight. So lets all raise our hands, and start moving in. We are all your children, so help us make this country a better place.” So we did. Hundreds of people with both of their hands raised, started moving towards the police, all of us holding our breath. No one knew what the outcome was going to be. We could have been beaten, we could have all been arrested, but we kept walking with both of our hands up in the air.
And the police left. They all backed away and let us get a hold of the whole street. The people started to applaud, scream, whistle, thanking the police. We managed to achieve this without anyone getting hurt, and even though it’s seems like a small step, it was a very important one. We paralyzed the whole city. We proved that violence is not necessary to achieve our goals. All we need to do is stand together as a team, and make this small country a better home for all of us.
That’s when the DJ’s who were supposed to play at the club the night of the raid came out. They started to play music, the crowd stated to dance, we started to party for our freedom. Colorful smoke in the air, people cheering, jumping, the protest took a completely unexpected turn. We were partying in the streets right in front of the Parliament.
And the party went on for the whole night. More and more people started to show up, and with the whole city paralyzed we were dancing for our rights. We were holding up our phones and hands in the air, to show the government that we’re here. And we’re not leaving until we get what we deserve, answers, and our freedom.
We were standing there in the rain. We were a team. We were showing everyone in this city that with love and support we were going to achieve what we want and what we deserve. They can’t take away this country from us, it belongs to our generation. We are going to make a change, and we are going to help this country grow.
I left around 12am because I was exhausted, hungry, and drenched from the rain. But a lot of people stayed there all night. Some even brought out tents to keep the protest going. As I’m writing this, people are still standing there, and I’m planning on joining them soon.
I believe in this country. I believe in the people. I believe that we hold the power. I believe that we will make a change with love, peace, and some deep house music.
Special thanks to King.Kote for some of the pictures in this post.