Tbilisi Drug Raids Elicit Bitter Protest from Georgian Youths

05.14.2018

Coordinated raids of two Tbilisi nightclubs have sparked several days of demonstration in Georgia’s capital city. Following the infiltration of two prominent techno clubs, the streets of Tbilisi have flooded with thousands of disenfranchised youths.

Around 1:00 AM Tbilisi time on Saturday, May 12th, masked riot police with assault rifles entered local techno hotspots Bassiani and Café Gallery. Eight alleged drug dealers were detained by officials. The Tbilisi drug raids are presumed to be a showing of force in response to five recent deaths resulting from suspected drug overdoses at nightclubs.

Participants in Tbilisi youth culture reacted with force of their own. Brandishing signs with slogans like “We dance together; we fight together,” the protestors danced in front of the parliament building while loudly playing techno. Counterprotests by Georgian nationalists have been staged in response, and even after the main camp of demonstrators was dismantled by police tensions have continued as of this writing.

The Politics of Dancing

To fully comprehend the implications of the Tbilisi drug raids, one must understand Georgia’s political climate of late. Shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Georgia declared its independence from the former nation. Amid a slow process of upheaval which has seen a more progressive culture form among Georgian youths in the past decade, DJ culture and raves have come to symbolize social change.

Homosexuality in particular has only been legal in Georgia since 2000, although laws against gay marriage remain in place. As homosexuals often face persecution from mainstream culture, Café Gallery has provided a safe space for LGBTQ culture. Bassiani also operates a companion LGBTQ club called Horoom.

White Noise also organizes events at Bassiani. The activist group pushes decriminalization of recreational drugs; Georgian laws punish possession of even microscopic amounts of several substances with prison sentences of up to eight years in some cases.

During the dismantling of the main protest camp, three have been arrested on the grounds of intoxication. In a statement the Georgian government identified illegal drug trade as their primary adversary, condemning the confrontations of the past few days.

Source: The Daily Beast

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