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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Georgians Remember Revolution

ReutersEstonia's Arnold Ruutel, left, Saakashvili and Yushchenko laying the foundation of a freedom monument in Tbilisi.
TBILISI, Georgia -- Thousands of Georgians jammed the main streets and squares of the capital on Wednesday to mark the second anniversary of the Rose Revolution protests that drove out the country's longtime leader and brought Mikheil Saakashvili to office.

The protests over fraudulent parliamentary elections, which culminated when demonstrators rushed into the parliament, forcing President Eduard Shevardnadze to flee and then resign, were the first of the so-called color revolutions in former Soviet republics.

The highlight of Wednesday's commemoration was a Saakashvili speech from a rose-adorned stage outside the parliament. "Normal states can be created only in conditions of democracy and freedom. Before the Rose Revolution, Georgia had been a defective state, and today all the world knows it as a democratic, successful country," he told the crowd massed outside. "Two years ago, we were together: Zurab Zhvaniya, Nino Burdzhanadze and myself. But the main role in the Rose Revolution belongs to you."

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, whose country celebrated the first anniversary of its Orange Revolution on Tuesday, traveled to Georgia to join in the festivities, along with leaders from Estonia and Romania.

Many praise Saakashvili for bringing what they say were much-needed reforms in Georgia. Kote Lursmanishvili, 25, who said he helped storm the parliament two years ago, said he had named his son after Saakashvili. "There's less corruption, and the criminals have their tails between their legs," he said.

More than 3,000 members of opposition groups, meanwhile, staged their own counter-rally, carrying red-and-white Georgian flags. "We demand the resignation of Saakashvili and new presidential and parliamentary elections. Otherwise, Georgia will be sold [out]," said Georgy Metreveli, who heads the group Justice. "The current leadership, in just two years in power, has driven the country into a dead end. It is against the people and cares only about its own glory and its own relatives. This regime will soon fall."

Human rights group Amnesty International said in a report released Wednesday that torture and ill-treatment of detainees in police custody continued to be a problem in Georgia.