The 20th anniversary of the Day of the National Unity in front of the Parliament

TBILISI, Georgia – The day of a big opposition rally started with a small, early  morning vigil in front of Parliament.

About 60 people were gathered in front of parliament around 5 am to leave flowers and burn candles to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Day of National Unity, when 20 people were killed and scores injured when Soviet troops fired upon protesters demonstrating against the Soviet Union.

People gathered there were drinking wine and giving toasts in memory of those killed on April 9, 1989.

“I’ve come here every year, for 20 years,” said Andro Gogoladze, 42, an archaeologist.

The monument of the April 9 tragedy was covered with red tulips and carnations, white lilies and burning candles. Three sellers took the opportunity to sell candles, flowers, cigarettes and snacks.

All of the early risers planned to return to parliament at 2 p.m., though not all are planning to support the opposition groups. Gogoladze, for example, is an opposition supporter. But pensioner Natella Turmanishvili said that she will come to the protest to heckle opposition supporters.

“I will whistle and say “Go away!”to the leaders of opposition parties – like Nino Burchanadze and Irakli Alasania. Because They don’t care about us,” she said.

Teimuraz Shashiashvili, former Tbilisi mayor, said “if there is a political microphone, I won’t have a speech. Because I don’t support either Alasania’s party, nor Burchanadze’s. When they had jobs they supported Saakashvili, after they were fired they became the opposition.”

But he doesn’t like Saakashvili either.

“Saakashvili had to resign his post because he couldn’t manage things well,” he said. “His being president has been bad for the Caucasus.”

In preparation for the day’s demonstrations, an iron stage and 1 meter high wood fence were constructed in front of the Parliament building.

Vakhtang Khmaladze, member of the opposition Republican Party, said he wasn’t bothered by the fences, and thought maybe they were there to prevent a repeat of 1989, when protesters stormed parliament, causing troops to shoot at the crowds. He is sure today’s demonstrators will be peaceful and weapon-free.

“If government use weapons against simple people it will be the government’s fault, and it will be held against them,” he said.

Later at 11 a.m, high up government officials and opposition members joined Catholicos-Patriarch of all Georgia Ilia II who visited the memorial of April 9 in front of Parliament building, according to Imedi TV news. He held a prayer to commemorate the names of people who died during the April 9, 1989 protests. President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili attended the prayer together with the head of Parliament David Bakradze and the Mayor of Tbilisi Gigi Ugulava.

Members of oppositional parties Levan Gachechiladze and Nino Burjanadze were also present. After the prayer, they went to different places from where oppositional leaders are going to march towards Rustaveli Avenue.

By Vusala Alibayli and Khanim Javadova

About 60 people came to the anniversary

About 60 people came to the anniversary

People gathered there left tuilps and burned candles in front of the tragedy monument

People gathered there left tuilps and burned candles in front of the tragedy monument

Not all of the protesters are support the opposition parties

Not all of the protesters are support the opposition parties