09TBILISI795, GEORGIA: OPPOSITION ERECTS MORE “CELLS,” PROTESTS’

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI795 2009-04-24 13:00 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO8333
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0795/01 1141300
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 241300Z APR 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1437
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000795 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/24/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM KDEM GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: OPPOSITION ERECTS MORE "CELLS," PROTESTS' 
IMPACT WIDENS 
 
REF: TBILISI 0786 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D) 
 
1. (SBU) Summary: Radical opposition protests continued on 
April 23 and leaders called upon their dwindling supporters 
to maintain their presence throughout the weekend.  Despite 
cold rain and meager numbers, the opposition continued to 
erect more "cells" in the areas surrounding Parliament, the 
State Chancellery, and the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB), 
choking off more streets.  In addition to blocking traffic, 
the impact of the protests widened further as nearby 
businesses reported significant losses and three GPB Board 
members resigned.  Mayor Ugulava announced April 24 that the 
city would clean the streets where the protesters are 
staying.  A late night scuffle with police occurred when 
protesters rallied outside a cafe where the President was 
allegedly eating dinner.  One policeman was injured.  As 
Parliament is officially closed due to the protests, some 
committees have held recent meetings in the regions.  End 
Summary. 
 
OBSERVATIONS FROM THE STREET 
 
2. (SBU) During the 23 April protest, which began later in 
the afternoon than usual, Embassy observers noticed a 
distinct majority of the crowd as middle-aged, poor, male 
Georgians from the regions outside of Tbilisi.  The areas 
surrounding the ostensible "base" for the protests, Rustaveli 
Avenue directly in front of Parliament, are increasingly 
covered in trash, with the side alleys now serving as 
receptacles for human waste.  There does appear to be some 
attempt to control the trash buildup, with older provincial 
women sweeping the large quantities of trash into more 
distinct piles, but each the day the situation worsens as 
those protesters currently living on the streets or in the 
"cells" continue to remain there. When protesters walked 
from Parliament to the Georgian Public Broadcaster's office 
on Kostava Street April 23, the procession was met with cold 
stares and overt displays of annoyance from Tbilisi residents 
coming home from work or seeking their way through the 
downtown area.  We estimate that fewer than 2,000 protesters 
converged during the day. 
 
STREETS BLOCKED, BUSINESSES CLOSED 
 
3. (U) The opposition erected more "cells" on April 23, and 
have now blocked off significant portions of Rustaveli 
Avenue, the State Chancellery, and the significant arterial 
route Kostava Street that runs in front of the GPB.  With 
only a few protesters manning some of the "cells," the 
opposition has increased the chokehold on traffic in the city 
with the metal frames.  In response, schools remain open with 
few students (reftel) and increasing numbers of businesses 
along Rustaveli are closed.  Embassy observers noted about 
half of the regular shops along Rustaveli near the protests 
were closed on April 24, and the lack of people conducting 
business in the area was easily noticeable.  Georgia Today 
reported that Rustaveli Cinema has been closed since the 
April 19 Orthodox Easter due to the protests.  According to 
the press, the cinema has canceled 140 screenings and 
incurred 50,000 GEL (30,000 USD) in losses to date. 
 
BUSINESSMEN UPSET 
 
4. (C) Emboff spoke with the Vice President of GMT Group on 
April 24.  GMT owns and operates the two Marriott hotels in 
Tbilisi; both are blocked off by the protesters' "cells" and 
experiencing significant slowdowns.  He told us that most of 
the shops are closed due to fears of vandalism and reduced 
sales.  The vice president, who has privately expressed his 
Qsales.  The vice president, who has privately expressed his 
dissatisfaction with Saakashvili, expressed great frustration 
with the opposition and said he is ready "for the government 
to come in with batons and tear gas and get these people out 
of here."  He added that currently his employees are washing 
the sidewalks at the Marriott Courtyard daily with bleach in 
order to cleanse them after the protesters use them as 
toilets.  Both Marriott hotels are adding additional security 
lights.  The businessman estimated the opposition has spent 
100,000 USD for the iron and materials used in the "cells," 
and wondered who was paying for them. 
 
GPB BOARD MEMBERS RESIGN, KHAINDRAVA BLASTS REPORTER 
 
5. (U) On April 23, three members of the GPB Board of 
Trustees resigned from the nine member board.  In a 
vaguely-worded statement the three said their efforts to 
serve the board and the public were "fruitless under present 
 
TBILISI 00000795  002 OF 002 
 
 
conditions."  However, they said this "did not mean they were 
joining the oppositions' protests."  GPB Chairman Levan 
Gakheladze said he regretted the decision by the three, 
because the board had accomplished much in the past year. 
Meanwhile, early in the morning on April 24, Goga Khaindrava 
led a few protesters at the GPB to call for GPB's director 
general to resign.  When a GPB journalist
covering the event 
asked Khaindrava if he wanted the position for himself, he 
angrily called her a "provocateur." 
 
LATE NIGHT SCUFFLES 
 
6. (U) At approximately 2 am on April 24, several protesters 
approached a Tbilisi cafe where President Saakashvili was 
dining.  When police blocked their approach, the noisy 
protest that ensued led to a brief scuffle with police.  The 
police then cordoned off the area, and a police spokesman 
said that one officer was injured and taken from the scene, 
and one protester was arrested.  Deputy Public Defender 
Giorgi Chkheidze observed the events.  He refused to 
speculate on what happened, saying the incident must be 
investigated. In another incident, the MOIA has placed a 
video on its website which appears to show opposition leader 
Nino Burjanadze's husband Badri Bitsadze and her son Anzor 
Bitsadze, with a small group of activists near the GPB 
handing out large wooden sticks and bats from the back of an 
SUV.  The MOIA claims the video was taped around 2 am. (Note: 
the video is available at police.ge. End note) 
 
PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEES AT WORK IN THE REGIONS 
 
7. (U) Due to the official closure of Parliament, several 
committees have met recently in the regions.  This is 
currently on an ad-hoc basis, depending on the chairmen's 
decisions, according to a contact at Parliament.  Such work 
arounds and outreach are likely to continue. 
TEFFT

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