Georgian protesters interrupt president Saakashvili’s dinner

photo_verybig_1030133TBILISI, April 24

A crowd of opposition activists gathered outside a restaurant where President Mikheil Saakashvili was eating, forcing him to abandon his dinner, as protests continued on the streets of Tbilisi.

The incident on Thursday evening came hours after opposition leaders pledged to block the president’s movements in the capital, in what they called an “active phase” of the protests, which have been ongoing since April 9. 

Protesters gathered outside the Mardzhanov restaurant in the city center a few minutes after the president appeared there, and tried to pelt the windows with carrots and cabbages, but were prevented by police.

Opposition leader Nino Burdzhanadze told reporters that the street protests will continue.

“For more than two weeks people have been on the streets at all times, in rain, cold, and wind, while our president goes to restaurants and cafes,” she said. Protesters “will take constant efforts to ensure Saakashvili’s personal discomfort.”

Opposition members said two of the protesters were detained by police after the restaurant incident, but the Interior Ministry has not commented.

Saakashvili, a U.S.-educated lawyer who came to power on the back of 2003 street protests, has been criticized for his authoritarian leadership and for dragging the country into a disastrous war with Russia last August, which resulted in the permanent loss of two separatist provinces.

The opposition has built wooden jail cells on Tbilisi’s central street to symbolize the country’s descent into a police state, and thousands of new supporters arrived in the capital from provinces late on Wednesday. Police have not attempted to disperse the rallies.

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