Tens of thousands protest in Georgia as parliament advances 'foreign influence' bill

Tens of thousands of people rallied Wednesday in Georgia against a controversial "foreign influence" bill, after parliament advanced the measure that Brussels has warned would harm Tbilisi's long-standing European aspirations.

The Black Sea Caucasus nation has been gripped by mass anti-government protests since April 9, after the ruling Georgian Dream party reintroduced plans to pass a law, which critics say resembles repressive Russian legislation used to silence dissent.

The bill cleared its second reading in parliament on Wednesday with a vote of 83 to 23, a day after police violently broke up a demonstration against it, firing tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets, and beating and arresting scores of people.

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen condemned the violence and urged Georgia to stay on the path to Europe.

"I am following the situation in Georgia with great concern and condemn the violence on the streets of Tbilisi," von der Leyen wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

"The Georgian people want a European future for their country. Georgia is at a crossroads. It should stay the course on the road to Europe".

Waving Georgian and European Union flags, tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered on Wednesday evening outside parliament, according to an AFP reporter on the scene. Georgia's national anthem and EU's Ode to Joy were performed at the rally.

'Popular anger growing'

Later in the evening, police used pepper spray, tear gas, and water cannon from inside the courtyard of the parliament building against hundreds of demonstrators who attempted to block the legislature's side entrance.


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