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Lessons, We can learn from Georgian Activism – From 2018 until today

This case study was developed by CAT alumni, lawyer and civic activist Mariam Gabrichidze for the Centre for Training and Consultancy (CTC).


Protests in Georgia have been intensive in recent years. It somehow is like a routine, when the government makes something wrong, they know that on Rustaveli avenue, the main street of Tbilisi will be loud, full of angry people. In this paper, I would like to highlight case studies and main explorations, what we activists have learnt in recent years’ protests in Georgia. Briefly, it will be about the common mistakes, which organizers make during manifestations. I have been involved in activism for more than 4 years, in some period- there were days that I’ve attended 3 performances or activities as an independent activist, then with my fellows, I co-founded Democracy Defenders Georgia, activist organization, which promotes democratic values, activism and Georgia’s EU Atlantic Integration.  This case studies will be from my personal experience and perspective, which I think will be useful for new-comers in activism to plan their manifestation or any kind of activities properly to avoid frustration, disappointment and anger. I have highlighted several lessons, which we Georgian activists received as an experience in the recent years.

Here are case studies analysis of the most popular, impactful and inspirational protest cycles. I’d like to underline that as an activist, I appreciate these manifestations’ organizers commitment and work and I‘ve just analyzed them as an outside person – from the independent activists’ perspectives how the manifestations work.

Lesson #1 – Identify what protesters want, if you take sole decision  – It will make  people frustrated


First case which should remembered as a one of the impactful protest was manifestation “We dance together we fight together” organized by White Noise Movement and nightclubs, it was supporting liberal narco-policy and also against police brutality at Bassiani and Cafe Gallery.


On May 12, 2018 hundreds of protesters gathered on Rustaveli Avenue Tbilisi to protest against the police raid in Club BASSIANI and Cafe GALLERY in order to arrest drug dealers, police brutally invaded clubs during the rave events.

On May 12, 2018 police used disproportionate force against people in the Club Bassiani and Cafe Gallery, clubbers kicked out of clubs and they joined several thousand people    in front of the Parliament. The protest was very tense, the right-wing extremists tried to break the police cordon and set a counter-protest.

In this period, Internal Minister Giorgi Gakharia appeared in front of Parliament and apologized to protesters. One of the organizer who was from the White Noise Movement, Beka Tsikarishvili announced a pause in demonstrations to “monitor progress”[1] but protests would have been continued if the demands were not accomplished. This pause, which was actually resumed in 28 May was the reason of frustration of demonstrators. The problem was that one the one hand, organizers wanted to take pause but on the other hand protesters wanted to continue the riot, because they were too much angry. Also, it was noticeable that there was not any consensus between organizers, unfortunately it seemed from out of the space that pausing the demonstration was the idea of the organizers, who were in the meeting with the internal minister of Georgia. 


The frustration of the part of protesters was caused of the organizers’ pause, when it was the momentum and the mission of protest would be achievable, unfortunately part of the organizers thought differently. It was kind of conflict of interests or clash of different interests of organizers and participants of the manifestation.

Lesson #2  – Make protest tactics right – it is the MOST crucial thing

One of the most impactful and inspirational protest was 2019 June’s protest organized by Shame Movement. It was antioccupational manifestations’ cycle which lasted approximately 100 days.


In 2019 Georgia had one of the most remarkable protest, it was called “Gavrilov Night”. It was absolutely spontaneous protest, which caused Russian politician, Sergey Gavrilov’s visit in Georgian Parliament in  the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO), a body set up by the Greek parliament in 1993 to foster relationships between Christian Orthodox lawmakers[2].He was seated in the Parliament’s chair’s seat and started his speech in Russian, it angered politicians (Opposition) and Georgian citizens. Sergei Gavrilov is one of the 447 MP who voted for Abkhazia’s and South Ossetia’s independence in Russian Duma.  Also, according to Georgian Parliament Member Giorgi Kandelaki, Gavrilov was taking part in the war of Abkhazia against Georgia[3]. (Therefore, this fact that a Russian MP, who always fought against Georgia, sat in Georgian parliament and spoke in Russian, made hundreds of Georgians angry and so many people gathered in front of the parliament and some of them threw eggs to Gavrilov and made him to leave Georgia sooner as he had planned.

Calling for the Speaker and other officials to resign, about 10K protesters breached the police cordon in Tbilisi in the evening of 20 June. The protest became more massive in the evening. At night, police used unprecedented unproportional force against protesters – 40 journalists injured, 3 people lost eyes, and approximately 200 protesters injured. After this brutal night, thousands of citizens gathered in front of the parliament the next day. It was the reason for starting the protest cycle, organized by Shame Movement. This protest was very interesting because of its length – approximately 100 days was unstoppable protest in Tbilisi. Protest Organizers had demands – resignation of the chair of Parliament and it was accomplished since the 2nd day of protest, proportional elections (“Georgian Dream” Founder, Bidzina Ivanishvili promised that the next election would be proportional but it was scam.) and the third one, resignation the internal affairs minister Giorgi Gakharia, who became afterwards Prime Minister of Georgia.

What was the main problems of the protest:

I’d repeat that this protest period had an enormous impact to develop and strengthen civil society in Georgia, as  it was the first massive protest and there was lack of experience. The problem was that protest organizers didn’t choose proper tactics to continue the protest. The “never ending protest” lost its importance and unfortunately people had feeling that the protest had no longer been momentous. Afterwards, there were very small quantity of people gathering in front of the Parliament. But performances and other acts, organized this activist groups had influence – in the regions of Georgia, many people started activism.

 Therefore, the lesson was that simple – every demonstration has aim to share with society what your demands are, and people understood that demands. In general, protest as “just gathering” is not always effective to accomplish its aim. Tactics were not seen correctly to accomplish the aim and it caused the part of protesters’ fatigue and frustration.

Lesson 3 – Don’t let opponents follow their agenda within propaganda, make your own agenda

The Against Russian law protest was one of the most successful protests in Georgia’s history. It was not only an effective campaign, it was a successful manifestation, which went to the aim.


The bill was introduced in the Parliament of Georgia by members of People’s Power, a political party widely believed to be affiliated with the governing party Georgian Dream, ) in mid-February 2023. It required all nongovernmental, noncommercial, and media organizations that received at least 20 percent of funding from foreign sources to register as “agents of foreign influence” with the Ministry of Justice of Georgia, making them liable to additional onerous financial reporting requirements and random state inspections, as well as up to solid quantity (25 000 Gel) of administrative fines for failures to register as foreign agents or submitting incomplete financial declarations[4]. The reason was “transparency”. The situation was similar   in Russia, it caused civil organizations to shut down too. Government said that it was inspired by the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which aims to identify forces primarily engaged in political activities that carry out interests of a foreign country within the United States. But Georgia’s context was different from USA. The “Russian Law” bill was criticized not only by USA, but also EU representatives, the Human Rights Watch called the bill “incompatible with international human rights law.” Protest had support EU high representative Josep Borell, French President Emmanuel Macron[5] (who posted on “X(Former Twitter) Georgians’ commitment to democratic values, press and freedom of association is heard.)

In addition, this protest had a lot of strength back from not only local activists, politicians and institutions but also an international society too. When protest reaches wide audience, it is the step toward of success.

After the very tense several days of protest, when the Special Forces were tired and the protesters still energetic, the ruling party announced that they would drop the bill in the second parliamentary hearing. On the March 10, the Parliament of Georgia officially dropped[6] the controversial bill on “Transparency of Foreign Influence.” This has been declared as a very important win to the civil society of Georgia.

Why this protest was effective:

The representatives of the NGO sector gathered and together they made a strategy. One of the most important thing was to make their agenda of spreading information. If government propagandists made statement against NGOs and CSOs, they didn’t respond to them – moreover, people NGO sector who were famous and sometimes “annoying” for the part of society they were not participating in TV shows or interviews. CSOs made their own agenda, for example- representatives of NGO sector always said the wording “Russian Law” made the ruling party members to response that it wasn’t “Russian Law” and their propaganda didn’t work at all.

This protest cycle had real challenges, for example, it was really hard to control the situation when there were too many people, with too many different political views. But the organizers were finding the common ideas for all people – touching points- as we, Georgians say in general. The fundament was that everyone in the manifestation wanted Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration and everyone had realized that this bill would be obstacle to achieve the mission. Also, organizers (and I do not mean only the led organizations of the protest because there were approximately 400 NG organizations of Georgia) had very clear and easily understanding information to spread in society what was the bill, why they called “Russian Law”, why this bill would be dangerous for Georgia’s Euro Atlantic integration’s commitment and why it would be a threat for non-governmental organizations and their beneficiaries. They had very clear examples of what NGOs, especially in the regions of Georgia were doing for the vulnerable groups and not only for them and how this bill would affect the beneficiaries’ legal condition in the future.


In the previous century and the beginning of 21st one, it was effective to express protest in front of the Parliament of Georgia because there were not any communication platforms, internet to organize gatherings, spread information and make attention. But today, when there are so many opportunities to express protest, it doesn’t need to take financial resources or the indicator is not about the quantity of people, it’s all about is to make influence and making your protest the center of attention. Also, in Georgia, it is somehow required that protest activities should meet aesthetic or ethical standards. For example, one of the most remembering action was last year, 7th of March in Tbilisi protesters threw toilet papers[7] at the Georgian Government Chancellery to protest the authorities’ lack of action on the war in Ukraine. The organizers were from Shame Movement, there were independent activists too. They told to police officers that they were not going to throw toilet papers to them, they were throwing a building of government administration. But this performance was not unanimously approved by Georgian society. Even if this action was clear and was in the scope of the freedom of expression, part of society considered that it was not useful action. To me, it was very clear example how you can protest without counting thousands of people, spending too much money just to express your anger and be the center of attention, yes, when you are in civic activism, your main mission is to be in the center of attention, to spread information effectively and give information to the international community.

What can I really say as an activist is that Georgian civil society has been raised and we can say without hesitation that activism in Georgia truly exists, we can analyze our mistakes and take them as lessons. So, as an activist, throughout every activity, manifestation or performance, I have learnt these things and I’d like to share them with you:

  • Identify what you really want to achieve within your actions, are planned activities achievable with your strategy or they need to be reviewed?
  • Make sure, when you are an organizer of the manifestation if people thinks like you, or if you act will the people follow you?
  • Don’t spend too much money, if you want to make protest, you often can make without big financial resources,
  • Don’t respond to government propagandists, make your own informational agenda;
  • If your activities won’t be achievable, keep going – activists are not born to be activists, and you should learn from your mistakes, but the best version will be if you learn from others mistakes, its simple rule and it works in activism too.

Lastly, but not at least, I’d like to finish my case-study analysis with the Chinese proverb, which I’ve read in the 1st day of  CAT Training: – “The one who moved the mountain, is the one who started taking away the small stones.” So, I do believe that every activist can be the one, who will move the mountain and will make a change for better.

[1] Available 09/12/2023

[2] Available 09/11/2023

[3] Available 09/11/2023

[4] Available 09/11/2023

[5] Available 09/10/2023

[6] Available 09/10/2023

[7] Available 09/14/2023

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Georgian Resilience: Uniting Against the Foreign Agents Bill

This case study was developed by CAT alumni and human rights lawyer Eko Mamaladze for the Centre for Training and Consultancy (CTC).


In recent years, the concept of democracy has been tested and scrutinized on a global scale, as nations grapple with the complex interplay of free speech, foreign influence and national sovereignty. Georgia, a country at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, in March, 2023 found itself at the center of a contentious debate with the introduction of the Foreign Agents Bill, a legislative proposal that sought to regulate the activities of non-governmental organizations (NGOs)[1] and their interactions with foreign entities. This paper delves into the heart of Georgian civil society’s response to this bill, exploring the dynamics of the protests that erupted in opposition to what many sad as a potential threat to democratic values and fundamental freedoms.

This case study seeks to shed light on the multifaceted aspects of the Georgian protests against the Foreign Agents Bill. It will explore the historical context that set the stage for these protests, the key actors and organizations involved, the strategies employed in mobilizing public opinion, and the impact of these demonstrations on the government’s decision-making process. Furthermore, this study will analyze the broader implications of this social movement for Georgia’s democracy and its standing in the international arena.

In examining the Georgian protests against the Foreign Agents Bill, this paper contributes to the broader discourse on the role of civil society in safeguarding democratic principles. Through a comprehensive exploration of this critical episode in Georgia’s political landscape, the paper aims to gain insights into the resilience of democratic values and the power of citizen activism in the face of legislative challenges. By examining the dynamics of this protest movement, the paper aims to shed light on the factors that contributed to its success, resulting in the withdrawal of the Foreign Agents Bill and draw valuable lessons that can inform and inspire similar movements around the world. This case study also underscores the importance of defending democratic values, civil liberties and the role of civil society in a rapidly evolving political landscape.

Background Story

The geopolitical landscape in Eastern Europe becomes apparent, as nations such as Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova strive for strengthened connections with the European Union. This is driven by their reaction to heightened regional security concerns resulting from Russian aggression in Ukraine[2] and their ambition to achieve deeper integration with Western organizations. In February, 2022 Georgia applied for EU membership[3] together with Ukraine and Moldova days after Russia invaded Ukraine. In June, 2022 EU leaders granted formal candidate status to Kyiv and Chisinau but said Tbilisi must implement a number of reforms first,[4] meaning that the European Union is ready to grant the status of candidate country to Georgia once the twelve priorities specified in the Commission’s opinion on Georgia’s membership application have been addressed.[5]

Against this background, in March 2023, the government introduced the Foreign Agents Bill, a piece of legislation that would have required non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society groups receiving foreign funding to register as “foreign agents.”  This label carried with it a negative connotation, as it implied that these organizations were acting on behalf of foreign governments, potentially undermining Georgia’s sovereignty. Supporters argued that this legislation was necessary to safeguard national security and protect against foreign interference in domestic affairs. Critics have pointed to a similar law passed in Russia, where all organizations or individuals receiving financial support from abroad, or under some form of “foreign influence”, are declared “foreign agents”. Many believed that this legislation was part of a broader trend in the region, where governments sought to limit the influence of foreign-funded NGOs in domestic affairs. The draft law “On Transparency of Foreign Influence” officially targeted the disclosure of money flows from abroad, but critics feared it was a way for the government to crack down on opposing voices. [6] This stark divergence of perspectives led to a surge in public mobilization and protests across Georgia, with citizens, activists, and international observers closely watching the unfolding events.

Flow of the Campaign

The bill was met with immediate and widespread resistance. The triumph of the Georgian protesters against the Foreign Agents Bill can be attributed to a well-organized and adaptable campaign strategy. Below the developments and key elements of this strategy will be systemized:

Formation of the Opposition Coalition:

At the outset of the campaign, opposition political parties and civil society organizations joined forces, creating a broad-based coalition. This strategic alliance facilitated the consolidation of resources, coordination of messaging, and presented a united front in opposition to the bill.

Public Mobilization and Awareness:

The campaign kicked off with a strong emphasis on mobilizing the public. Through the channels of social media, online campaigns, and town hall meetings, citizens were educated about the potential repercussions of the bill. Social media played a crucial role in mobilizing citizens, with hashtags such as #HandsOffNGOs and #NoToForeignAgentsBill trending. The messaging predominantly centered around the perceived threats to democracy, civil liberties, and the influence of foreign funding in civil society. This messaging resonated with a diverse spectrum of Georgian society. Individual activists, including prominent bloggers and cultural figures, used their platforms to raise awareness and mobilize public opinion.

Mass Protests and Demonstrations:

Strategically planned mass protests were organized in the capital, Tbilisi. Protesters marched through the streets, demanding the withdrawal of the bill. Thousands of people have been massing for days in Tbilisi, to protest against the proposed law. These demonstrations served as a potent visual representation of public dissent. As protestors marched through the streets, carrying banners and chanting slogans, a profound sense of unity and urgency was cultivated. These protests were largely peaceful, but tensions occasionally flared with clashes between demonstrators and the police. The Georgian government’s initial heavy-handed response to the protest exacerbated tensions, resulting in the usage of water cannon and tear gas to disperse thousands of demonstrators in Tbilisi, around the parliament building protesting against a planned ‘’foreign agent’ law allegedly reminiscent of Russian legislation used to silence critics. However, it later adapted its approach in response to public pressure.

Civil Disobedience and Boycotts:

Supplementing the street protests, civil disobedience campaigns were initiated. Citizens were encouraged to boycott businesses associated with government officials or supporters of the bill. This economic pressure was aimed at swaying the positions of influential individuals and businesses aligned with the government.

Engagement with International Partners:

The campaign actively sought international support and solidarity. Human rights organizations, foreign governments, and global media were engaged to amplify the message. This international dimension applied diplomatic pressure on the Georgian government to reconsider the bill. “Today is a dark day for Georgia’s democracy,” [7]the United States embassy in Georgia said after the initial reading of the bill. International partners have cautioned that enacting such legislation could jeopardize the country’s current partnerships and hinder its efforts towards European integration.[8] Diplomatic channels were actively engaged to exert pressure on the government to respect democratic norms and human rights, reinforcing the importance of peaceful protests.

Monitoring and Post-Protest Phase:

Subsequent to the bill’s withdrawal, the campaign shifted its focus to monitoring the government’s actions, ensuring transparency in legislative processes, and safeguarding democratic values. It aimed to prevent future attempts to introduce similar legislation or undermine civil society.

The campaign employed a multifaceted approach to communication and engagement, including:

  • Social Media: Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram were utilized for information dissemination, protest coordination, and sharing personal stories of those affected by the bill.
  • Traditional Media: The media played a crucial role in shaping public opinion. The spread of disinformation and polarization through media channels posed challenges to the protest movement. Therefore, Television, radio, and print media were leveraged to reach a wider audience and reinforce the campaign’s message.
  • Grassroots Engagement: Town hall meetings, community discussions, and localized outreach initiatives facilitated direct engagement with citizens.

The protests in Tbilisi against the Foreign Agent Bill were a multifaceted demonstration of civic engagement and political activism. While they succeeded in garnering attention both domestically and internationally, leading to withdrawal of the bill, they also faced challenges such as minor clashes with law enforcement and polarization within society. These experiences serve as a rich source of lessons for not only the Georgian context but also for democratic movements globally.

The withdrawal of the Foreign Agents Bill was the campaign’s most significant achievement, reflecting the government’s responsiveness to public pressure. The campaign succeeded in mobilizing a broad cross-section of Georgian society, emphasizing the importance of civil liberties and democratic values. The achievements of the protests also included the accumulation of the international community’s concern over the bill. These successes highlighted the power of collective action and the importance of raising awareness about potential threats to democratic values.

However, the protests also faced setbacks, particularly in terms of maintaining peaceful demonstrations. Occasional clashes with law enforcement underscored the need for improved training and communication between protesters and the authorities. Moreover, the protests revealed deep divisions within Georgian society, emphasizing the importance of addressing polarization and fostering constructive dialogue.

The key takeaway from these protests is the importance of striking a balance between expressing dissent and maintaining peaceful and constructive engagement. Lessons learned include the need for effective communication, engagement with local communities, media literacy campaigns, and legal reforms that protect the right to peaceful assembly. Furthermore, the experience highlights the necessity of international engagement and diplomatic pressure in upholding democratic values.

While the bill was withdrawn, the long-term sustainability of democratic institutions in Georgia remained a concern, requiring ongoing vigilance. Some minor clashes between protesters and law enforcement occurred, highlighting the challenges of maintaining peaceful demonstrations.

The protests in Tbilisi against the Foreign Agent Bill were a nuanced demonstration of the challenges and opportunities faced by civil society in a democracy in transition. The successes and setbacks provide a valuable blueprint for future democratic movements, emphasizing the importance of adaptability, strategic thinking, and a commitment to upholding democratic principles while advocating for change.


The Georgian protests against the Foreign Agents Bill stand as a compelling example of civic mobilization to defend democratic principles and civil liberties. The diverse coalition of actors, including political parties, civil society organizations, and individual activists, effectively harnessed public outrage to bring about change. This case study underscores the importance of public engagement, international solidarity, and persistent advocacy in safeguarding democratic institutions and values. Georgia’s experience serves as a valuable lesson for other nations grappling with similar challenges to their democratic systems.










პოლიტიკური ინოვაციების და სათემო ორგანიზაციების როლი დემოკრატიის მშენებლობაში

Stanford Social Innovation Review-ის რამდენიმე სტატიის ადაპტირებული, რეფერატული მიმოხილვა. სტატიები ეხება სოციალური ცვლილებებისა და დემოკრატიული მმართველობის პროცესში პოლიტიკური ინოვაციებისა და სათემო ორგანიზაციების საკითხს.