Thousands of Georgians stage 'March for Europe' against controversial 'foreign influence' bill

Some 20,000 Georgians staged a "March for Europe" on Sunday, calling on the government to scrap a controversial "foreign influence" bill which the EU has warned would undermine Tbilisi's European aspirations.

There have been mass anti-government protests since mid-April, when the ruling Georgian Dream party reintroduced plans to pass a law critics say resembles Russian legislation used to silence dissent.

Waves of similar street protests -- during which police used tear gas and water cannon against demonstrators -- forced the party to drop a similar measure in 2023.

Police have again clashed with protesters during the latest rallies.

On Sunday evening -- before staging what organisers called a "March for Europe" -- at least 20,000 people turned out at Tbilisi's central Republic Square, according to an AFP estimate.

The kilometre-long procession, which featured a huge EU flag at its head, stretched out along Tbilisi's main thoroughfare towards parliament.

"I am here to protect Georgia's European future," said 19-year-old Lasha Chkheidze. "No to Russia, no to the Russian law, yes to Europe."

The rally was organised by around 100 Georgian rights groups and opposition parties, which have until now kept a low profile at the youth-dominated daily protests.

Police used pepper spray without warning.

In December, the EU granted Georgia official candidate status.


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