POLITICS
Police prevented country dwellers from arriving in Capital
26 May, 2011

‘Confiscated driving licenses, deflated tires, damaged cars and threats of loosing jobs…’
Protest actions that started from 21 May this year did not pass without ugly turns. Citizens travelling from countryside to the capital were subject to thorough body searches by law enforcers. Confiscated driving licenses, deflated tires, damaged cars and threats of loosing jobs – participants of the protest actions from the regions, heading to Tbilisi faced the said problems on their way to the capital on 21 May. They

travelled mostly by taxis or private cars, occasionally on trains.
As citizens coming to the Georgian capital from western Georgia claim, on 21 May the Georgian capital was almost inaccessible for the region residents. According to their stories, Minister of Internal Affairs Vano Merabishvili and President Mikheil Saakashvili, who was going to visit Hungary, whooshed along the highway with long escorts.
They say that drivers of private mini-buses (“marshrutkas”) were warned two days in advance that they should not go to Tbilisi on 21 May. All of them were ordered to hand in their driving licenses temporarily, to make sure they would not work that day. There were instances when road police forced passengers of mini-buses abandon the vehicles. However, these people still continued to move to the place of their destination on foot and by train. This is at least what the eye-witnesses tell the story of that day.
As residents of Senaki (a town in Western Georgia) say, many of them were ordered to hand in their driving licenses. Others found the tires of their cars pierced. One of the Senakians recalled that a day earlier Senaki municipality possessed a list of all the private cars and mini-buses which were planning to travel to Tbilisi on 21 May.
Threats of loosing jobs were widespread in Kakheti, Eastern Georgia. Kakhetians say that Sagarejo, a Kakhetian town near Tbilisi, was completely blocked by the police.
“The Police cars blocked Sagarejo from all directions. It was impossible to find a mini-bus. So, instead we stopped random cars passing by. We managed to travel one by one, using random taxies,” said one of the Kakhetians who did not want to have identity revealed.
As for those politicians who organized the protest actions, they blamed the Authorities for the small number of people taking part in the events.
“I think the number of people coming to the protest actions on 21 May and later on was quite good. If we consider that the Authorities forced many citizens to turn away, much more people could have joined us,” remarked Nona Gaprindashvili, five times world chess champion and a leader of Popular Council.

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