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Protesters in Georgia reconvene to rally against foreign-agents bill

The Georgian parliament's Legal Affairs Committee endorsed the third reading of the bill on foreign agents on Monday

TBILISI, May 13. /TASS/. Several hundred people, mostly college students, gathered near the parliament building in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi to protest against a bill on foreign agents, according to a TASS reporter at the scene.

Some protesters staged a march to the parliament building from the Rustaveli subway station. Others were already in front of the parliament. They are holding flags of Georgia and the EU, as well as banners demanding the withdrawal of the bill.

Rustaveli Avenue, where the parliament is located, has been closed for traffic. A stage has been set up near the legislature, but speeches have not started yet. There is police presence at the site and on nearby Liberty Square.

The Georgian parliament's Legal Affairs Committee endorsed the third reading of the bill on foreign agents on Monday. Protesters against the bill began to gather outside the parliament the day before to prevent lawmakers from considering the document. At dawn on Monday, police pushed the protesters away from entrances to the legislature. Scuffles broke out from time to time, with 20 people detained, including one Russian national, one Moldovan national and two Americans.

On May 1, the Georgian legislature backed the second reading of the bill On Transparency of Foreign Influence which was opposed by Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili, the opposition and Western diplomats who regard the legislation as a hurdle to the country’s integration into the European Union. The US State Department said the bill is aimed at undermining the country's vibrant civil society. Leaders of the Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia party argued that the bill only serves the purpose of ensuring transparency of foreign funding provided to non-governmental organizations and news media.

Zourabichvili said she would veto the bill. Since April 15, opposition and civil activists have been holding rallies in Tbilisi against the legislation. Several times the protests escalated into clashes with law enforcement officers, and riot police used pepper gas and water cannons to disperse protesters.