Georgia protests over foreign agents bill continue into second day

People take part in a demonstration outside Georgia's Parliament in Tbilisi on March 8, 2023 called by Georgian opposition and civil society groups against government plans to introduce controversial "foreign agent" legislation.

(CNN)Tens of thousands of people gathered outside the Georgian parliament on Wednesday in the second day of protests in capital city Tbilisi over a draft "foreign agents" bill that critics fear could drive a wedge between the Caucasian nation and Europe.

Protesters could be seen waving the flag of the European Union -- which Georgia applied to join last year -- and those of the United States and Ukraine, as well as the Georgian flag. Social media videos also showed some protesters throwing stones at the building's windows and attempting to break a protective barrier, with police deploying water cannon and tear gas.
The controversial bill would require organizations receiving 20 percent or more of their annual income from abroad to register as "foreign agents" or face heavy fines -- a proposal that rights experts warn will pose a chilling effect to civil society in the country and damage its democracy.
    The ruling Georgian Dream party has said that the bill is modeled on US legislation, Reuters reports. But critics say it evokes a controversial law in neighboring Russia that forms the basis of draconian restrictions and requirements on organizations and individuals with foreign ties.
      The bill passed a first reading on Tuesday in the legislature and faces several further steps before becoming law. Its ultimate passage is considered likely, however, as the bill has strong support among lawmakers.
      In a statement on Wednesday, the Georgian Interior Ministry called "on the protesters, organizers and political leaders not to go beyond the limits defined by the law on freedom of assembly and expression."
      At least 76 people have been arrested in connection to Tuesday's protests.
        Georgian riot police stand outside Georgia's Parliament in Tbilisi early on March 9, 2023.