Police in Georgia use tear gas, water cannons to disperse protest against so-called 'Russian law'

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — Police in Georgia's capital used tear gas and water cannons Tuesday to disperse protesters who rallied outside the country’s parliament to protest a bill that would require media and non-commercial organizations to register as being under foreign influence if they get over 20% of their funding from abroad.

Thousands of demonstrators gathered to oppose the legislation that they see as an impediment to Georgia’s long-sought prospects of joining the European Union. They denounced it as “the Russian law” because Moscow uses similar legislation to stigmatize independent news media and organizations critical of the Kremlin.

During the latest rally against the bill late Tuesday, police moved to break up the protest after demonstrators tried to block the entrances to the parliament building in order to prevent lawmakers from leaving. Several demonstrators were arrested.

Earlier this month, the parliament endorsed the bill in the first reading despite the protests. On Tuesday, lawmakers debated the bill as part of a second reading.

The bill is similar to the one that the ruling party was pressured to withdraw last year after large street protests.

The bill requires non-commercial organizations and news media that receive 20% or more of their funding from overseas to register as “pursuing the interests of a foreign power.”

Georgia’s President Salome Zourabichvili has harshly criticized the bill and vowed to veto it if it is passed by parliament. The ruling party, however, can override the veto and then the parliament speaker can sign it into law.