On May 13th a mass protest rave erupted outside the (former) Georgian parliament in Tbilisi in response to aggressive raids on the infamous Bassiani and Cafe Gallery clubs. Georgian authorities had sent armed officers to shut the club down citing drug related offences. Thousands gathered from all walks of life, especially those who have been marginalised and targeted by unjust laws, united together under the banner: ‚We dance together, we fight together’. This, is ‚Rave diplomacy’ in action.
What’s the hype in Georgia?
Georgia has a prohibitionist approach to drugs. A report from Human Rights Watch states harsh governmental attitudes allow authorities to use drug laws “to criminally prosecute people who use drugs, while treatment options remain limited.”
The country has very regressive LGBTQ rights and those who defend them often meet strong resistance from government authorities and counter-protests from many strong elements in society.
Georgia’s unique history, including many recent wars, have resulted in many challenging conditions for the citizens today.
Raving is seen as an escape and as a tool for political protest against unjust laws in the country. The underground music scene became a safe space where artists, young people, LGBTQ people, those marginalised, disenfranchised, people who just want to have fun and push for the change they want to see.
Rave-as-political-protest and its influence on policy makers
A recent statement from the Bassiani facebook page on what happened:
”Unite to save BASSIANI / HOROOM.
World’s one of the most well-known dance club – BASSIANI is facing a threat of closing down.
On May 12th, Black Friday, Georgian special force units have invaded the dancefloor armed with machine guns. They shut the music down, forced club employees and guests to leave and closed the doors of the venue for uncertain amount of time. According to the official statement, the goal of the operation was to determine the connection between the club and the drug dealers. Later it was revealed from the videos published by the Ministry of Internal Affairs that the drug dealers were apprehended outside of the club hours before the special operation in different parts of Tbilisi.
Special operation against BASSIANI was met with immediate protest from citizens. Hundreds of supporters have gathered at the gates of the club. Burgeoning protest was dispersed by the police the same night, resulting in an increased wave of opposition and relocation of the protesters to the main street of the city.
The next day thousands of people demanded resignation of the Minister of Internal Affairs and the Prime Minister of Georgia, investigation of the events that took place on the Black Friday and the return of the BASSIANI. The same day every club in the country closed their doors in solidarity. Artists who were scheduled to play on Friday joined the manifestation, among them were guys from Giegling, who played for the thousands of protesters, turning the main street of Tbilisi for several hours into a public rave.
The massive rave that took place in the streets of Tbilisi, united over 10 000 people and took the center stage of global media coverage and dance scene. We want to thank all the clubs, unions, organizations and media outlets, artists, producers and ravers for the unconditional support that they have shown us during these days.
Taking into consideration the strong protest wave, MIA minister publicly apologized and committed to starting the investigation and finding the responsible. He also promised to renew working on liberalization of strict drug policies and the return of the club. Despite the negotiations, none of the agreed conditions have been fulfilled. The club is still closed and we have already met the first Friday without BASSIANI.
Behind the BASSIANI helmet stands an angry warrior, who fights for the new ideas and who won’t back down from the struggle for freedom. We won’t stop and will continue to fight against the unjust system and inequality. Thank you very much for your unconditional love and support.
In this war for ideas and values our only hope is our truth and people, who have always stood with us.
We Dance Together, We Fight Together!”
The events in Tbilisi have been covered in major news outlets and been gaining support from the music industry across the world:
These actions, show the determination and strength of collective action against injustice. These issues are our issues.
„We want freedom. We don’t want to live in a country were policemen can come up to us with guns and tell us what to do, where to go or how to hang out. We just want to be free, dance together, have fun together.”- Giorgi Wazowski, fashion photographer and stylist (Source: i-D)
What can you do to support?
Donate to Bassiani for their legal fees ‚to prepare a legal battle and stop state oppression’.
Support Don’t Punish! (continue to support Bassiani and the freedom ravers in Georgia by sharing on Support Don’t Punish)
Find out more:
- We also wrote about ‚Rave diplomacy‚, from the Nightlife conference in Berlin last year, and heavily featured the amazing work of those fighting for freedoms and human rights in Bassiani and other countries around the world.
- What do other young people think of the situation and the future now?
Pictoral updates via tumblr