- Catch up on the details of whats happened until now, here.
- After the incredible events over the last 2 weeks Bassiani is Back!
Following a wave of drug related deaths among young people, the authorities of Georgia used this an excuse to raid the infamous Bassiani (and Cafe Gallery) club. These clubs are representative of freedom, tolerance, acceptance and provide a safe space for people from all walks of life to mix and enjoy themselves. After the armed raid at the club, a number of arrests were made which erupted into a protest rave outside the (old) Georgian parliament building! Thousands danced for freedom in this epic showdown with support given from all around the world, especially from those in the music industry. However, a clash in opinions with counter ‚fascist’ protests raised tensions further. Eventually the Minister of Internal Affairs, Giorgi Gakharia, publicly apologised and stated interest in reforming drug policies:
“I also promise that we will achieve specific results in the direction of drug policy. And if promises are not kept, we will always be able to dance or listen to music in a free city.” – Giorgi Gakharia, Minister of Internal Affairs
Under the slogan ‚We dance together, we fight together‚, the people of Tbilisi literally embodied this action, and to great effect.
The fight is not over
Bassiani, Cafe Gallery, the club scene of Tbilisi and all those who support its cause, will continue to shape their future and actively participate to see the change they want. How much can we say the same for ourselves? There is incredible work happening all around us and so much we can still do as individuals coming together, no matter how ‚busy’ we think we are. The people who oppose us will not stop, whatever the state of the laws and policies in our countries, there is still work to do to ensure our shared in interest in supporting human rights, and freedom from oppression, is universally applied.
On the same day as the reopening of Bassiani, counter (rave) protests against racist neo-nazi march in Berlin, Germany were underway. This resurgence of a nationalist, racist, intolerant narrative is being exploited and amplified all around the world. People who use drugs and those who are involved in its trade, are all shining targets under this dangerous precedent. Drugs are used as a scapegoat for inhumane action and the more fear and hysteria that is not challenged, the more atrocities will continue to happen.
As LGBTQ activists were harassed by police in Tbilisi as they supported the protest. A beautiful example of solidarity and cause for us to reflect on how we support others who are affected by the same brutality.
Bangladeshi authorities, some saying emboldened by the horrific approach of Phillipines President Duterte, are brutally cracking down on ‚drug users’ and ‚drug dealers’. Whether its a young persons drug related death, or an execution of a supposed ‚drug dealer’ under street mob justice mentality, people are dying. All because of misguided actions emboldened by hysteria fuelled by fear that is based on discrimination and inequality. It is our duty to be informed and do something to counter these nefarious forces. The protests in Tbilisi and Berlin show there is hope if we stand, or dance, together and fight.
Drugs are just part of a bigger fight
In a recent interview between Bassiani Co-founder Tato Getia and Resident Advisor’s Will Lynch, Tato made an incredibly important statement for us to take heed of:
„Would you say this is part of an ongoing culture war?”
„Yeah! They’ve shifted public opinion, they’ve demonized clubs with this act. Before, public opinion was leaning toward drug reform, now it’s not. It was against the movement because it was getting strong, and we were not just fighting drug policy. We were also fighting for many social things, maybe it was an attack against all this. I don’t know, we only have interpretations. But what’s a fact is that it was on purpose. It was not an attack against drug dealers or drugs, but a political act against the club.”
Silence instead of solidarity from the drug policy community?
As a global network we have to take more action together. Why has there been such silence from the drug policy community? Why have we not exhibited more explicit support for our friends in Tbilisi? Only in solidarity, in collective action, in a unified spirit can we move forward and make the change we want to see.
Drug policy and music, rave culture are inexplicably linked. Following the amazing action and reaction to events in Tbilisi, we can learn and put our own struggles into some perspective. Find the similarities, the differences, the ways in which we can learn and support each each other. Listen to the experiences of those who are being disproportionately affected: young people, the people of colour, LGBTQ people, homeless, migrants, refugees. We should be doing more to help and work to support all these intersecting communities. We should recognise our privileges, understand the power and influence we can exert and work with all these communities. Openly celebrate the recent success of our friends in Tbilisi and highlight the importance of progressive policies including harm reduction to preventing deaths and violence from the government.
Fight side by side
The music and club scene of Tbilisi released a manifesto at the reopening of the club:
In the words of Bassiani:
„This is a struggle for freedom and equality, for all those ideas and values that has united all of us – many thousands of people!
Today dance has become a political statement!
We stand together, We Dance Together, We Fight Together, We Win Together!”
(scroll down facebook post for english version)
How can we save lives?
YODA’s Irena Molnar has first hand experience of rave as a form political protest in Serbia and shared her thoughts:
„It is amazing to see huge amount of people standing to fight for their rights, for freedom to practice what they believe it is their culture, and they have every right doing so! What comes to my attention is that until the club got raided there were not so much people fighting for the drug policies and services that potentially could save life of 5 people that died recently, that allegedly the raid was connected to.
Bassiani owners did post a note together with White Noise Movement that the people should be careful, but is that really enough? Saying just it might be drugs used in our club, here is the note, stay safe? Instead of that maybe the fight should be for more humane drug policy, oriented towards human rights and public health which will support harm reduction as a safety measures. Restrictive measures are not a response to the use of psychoactive substances, especially when dealing with the phenomenon of new psychoactive substances that are increasingly the cause of youth deaths at parties and festivals around the world. By locking clubs and arresting young people, there is no effect on reducing the rate of mortality associated with the use of drugs. Instead, it is necessary to create and implement effective drug policies involving various preventive activities which should include harm reduction as well as drug testing programs. Fight for freedom should also include fight for harm reduction. Instead of focus being at the free raving, I do believe the focus should be on SAFER raving that involves more loose approach towards drug use and implementation of harm reduction and nightlife outreach services on a regular basis, because restrictive drug policies obviously resulted in raiding Bassiani and Café Gallery. Seemed like that was the only thing Georgian government knew how to do in response to people dying.”
There is a better way to prevent these deaths. Fight for harm reduction services such as drug testing/checking, better information on how to stay safe, spaces for sitting down, access to water and sanitation, access to condoms, access to emergency on site, properly trained providers of health services. This is one of the first and most effective steps to stop people dying in the short term. These deaths are preventable and we can avoid manipulation of tragic events for political gain, we need to avoid the pressure from those who call for policies that further hurt and kill our friends. This cannot be done in isolation- we must also stand together with our friends from all communities that are marginalised and targeted by such policies too. The drug policy community cannot work in isolation to achieve this. We must unify to fight for LGBTQ rights, human rights of migrants, refugees, people of colour, young people, those who intersect and transcend these labels.
‚This garbage toward the club is still continuing. [The government’s narrative is] working on the public really well. It’s really easy, in such a conservative country, to put mud on a place by saying things like, we’re promoting LGBTQ people, we’re promoting drug usage. This propaganda still continues.”-Co founder of Bassiani, Tato Getia [Resident Advisor]
Do more to support!
Support Don’t Punish, a global campaign against the war on drugs (reach out to all of those fighting for justice and work together for your event)
Talk to more people about what has happened in Tbilisi- how can you relate and how can you create or join the progressive efforts towards meaningful change where you are (and let us know 🙂 )
Learn how you can support harm reduction efforts and drug policy reform efforts where you are, what organisations exists, what actions can you take, do you need to set something up yourself? (If you want help let us know)
Support and follow the work of YODA member ReGeneration who are working hard to prevent unnecessary drug related deaths.
Speak to, learn from and support those who are affected by issues that intersect with yours
Anything else? Give us a shout