Georgian Parliament decorated with Christmas lights

Last weekend there was a protest in front of Parliament—this happens often, and this one was quite small (I’m not sure exactly what it was about.  The placards helpfully said “For Georgia”).  Still, it made the trip to the metro more difficult than usual.  You see, Parliament is located smack dab on Rustaveli Avenue.  Rustaveli Avenue is still a major traffic and pedestrian thoroughfare, as well as the symbolic Main Street of Georgia, a major shopping district, and a tourist destination in and of itself.  It is of course, not just a major road, but a major road of Tbilisi—the capital city where the bulk of other business takes place.  The Georgian Parliament building doesn’t have the benefit of a space akin to the National Mall where crowds can gather and protest—the sidewalk is slightly wider in front of the building, but really that’s all the space available in which to protest.  There is no convenient place for events, including protests, to take place.  Because of the lack of space, any gathering drawing tens (much less hundreds or thousands) of people can cause a disruption to life in the city.  The protest last weekend was small (I doubt there were more than a hundred people) but there were enough of them to make walking along the street difficult.  Police were there, forming a human barrier between the protesters and the traffic so that no one would be injured and the street would remain clear,  while also assisting pedestrians in their attempts to walk down the street.  They were quite helpful and I didn’t find them at all threatening.  In my experience, their presence was honestly for safety rather than control.  But think of the manpower this takes, just to prevent traffic fatalities. And the disruption to the city is not insignificant when there are enough protesters to block the sidewalk, who can cause serious delays when they spill into the street and prevent access to Rustaveli Avenue.  Now, I haven’t seen if the plans for the new Parliament to be opened in Kutaisi (Is that still this weekend?  I’ve heard rumours both ways) contain some sort of public space where protests can be held with less disruption of daily life, but I really hope it does.  Surely I can’t be the only one who has noticed this problem.  In any case, the move to Kutaisi will help alleviate the problem of a very small number of protesters having a disproportionate effect on the country.  Citizens will be able to picket Parliament and be noticed by politicians and the media, but it will be more difficult for them to bring the entire country to a pause by virtue of disrupting the everyday rhythms of Tbilisi.