‘White Noise’ Movement in Georgia

Photo:Vladimer Shioshvili

Recently, two crowded rallies took place in Rustaveli Avenue in the center of Tbilisi. One of them was organized by the “White Noise” Movement, with 1,500 people protesting against the police actions during an anti-drug operation in Tbilisi’s nightclubs and demanding the resignation of the head of the interior ministry and the prime minister.

With more than two thousand participants, the other movement protested against the ”White Noise” protest rally and demanded to stop it. The police arrested more than ten aggressive protesters of nationalists who sought to break through to the parliament building. The Rustaveli Avenue was mobilized by a special intelligence unit of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, water cannon and special equipment, including so-called voice grenades.

The demands of legalizing the alleged ”light drugs” at the outset of the “White Noise” campaign were replaced by a request for government resignation. The spontaneous rally, however, quickly turned into a riot. According to Rustavi 2, 70 people were detained in the clubs, all of which were arrested for administrative offenses, that is, drug use.

It should be noted that in the Georgian legislation there is a legal clause for light drugs. In November last year, the Constitutional Court adopted the use of marijuana as “non-public danger” and described the persecution of consumers as “a state invasion of a person’s personal and free development.” However, as we can see, in practice it has not yet been legalized.

Georgian Prime Minister Georgi Kvirikashvili has issued a statement in which he assured demonstrators that his main priority is to ensure freedom of speech. “We will not allow forming an atmosphere of hatred for different viewpoints,” the prime minister said.

Interior Minister Georgi Gakharia met with participants of mass protests in the Georgian capital. The demonstrators demanded his resignation. Gakharia has appeared in front of the demonstrators when they refused to leave the square. He promised thousands of people not to persecute any of the protesters, and to take certain measures for the drug liberalization. In particular, on May 14, Gakharia will meet with the protesters to discuss the law. “If we do not fulfill my promise, you can go to this square and listen to music at any time. We live in a free country and the security of citizens is a priority, regardless of their sexual orientation, religious or political beliefs,” the Minister said. The head of the Interior Ministry of Georgia publicly apologized to the nightclub visitors who were wounded by the police actions and promised to find out everything.

The organizer of the protest, Beka Tsikarishvili, said in turn that the minister promised that police officers would be held accountable if it was found out that abuse of power had taken place. “Gakharia said that the authorities will resume work on the Drug Policy reform bill, which is very important,” he added.

Tsikarishvili also said that in this situation it is necessary to stop the action and to continue to work with the Ministry of Internal Affairs over these issues.

Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili also touched upon the issue. He believes that the two-day protests of the youth in Tbilisi are of destructive character, due to the unsanctioned management of billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. He also stressed that he intends to return to Georgia and correct mistakes.

Summing up the events taking place in the neighboring country, a question arises as to whether Tbilisi will take an example from Yerevan.

The political events that have taken place in Armenia lately have caused great interest in Georgia. When Bidzina Ivanishvili introduced Armenia as a role model country some years ago, the nationalists demanded to deprive him of citizenship, to abandon the country, etc… It is interesting if the Georgian political elite have changed its mind so far?