Source AP ©

Georgian police force opposition from place of daily protests against president

After five days of protests against President Mikhail Saakashvili the opposition was driven out from their site in the capital by Georgian police.

Police charged into the street in front of parliament and chased away more than 100 demonstrators who had remained overnight, Ivlian Khaindrava, a leader of the opposition Republican Party, told The Associated Press. He said two opposition leaders were detained.

The protests have marked the biggest challenge to Saakashvili since his landslide election after the Rose Revolution four years ago.

Opposition forces had gathered at the site on Tbilisi 's main avenue every day since Friday, when more than 50,000 people rallied. The protesters initially called for changes in the dates of planned elections and in the electoral system, but later made Saakashvili's resignation their central demand.

Leaders of the opposition coalition were meeting to discuss their next steps, Khaindrava said.

Opposition forces had planned to gather outside parliament Wednesday afternoon for a sixth day of protests.

Police did not wield truncheons during Wednesday's sweep, but they kicked one opposition leader, Zurab Marakvelidze, who was detained, Khaindrava said.

Khaindrava said his brother Georgy Khaindrava, an opposition leader and one of many former Saakashvili allies who now oppose him, was also detained. Markavelidze and Khaindrava were among several opposition leaders who had announced hunger strikes earlier to press their demands.

Privately owned Imedi television, which has covered the protests closely, said police seized cameras from television crews and treated journalists roughly.

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