The 'foreign agent' law sparking Georgian unrest

STORY: For the second straight day thousands of people staged large-scale protests in Tbilisi, Georgia on Wednesday.

Some protests were violent. They're rallying against pending legislation, dubbed the "foreign agents" law, which critics say signals an authoritarian shift that harms Georgia's chances of closer ties with Europe.

Georgia's parliament on Tuesday passed a first reading of the legislation.

It requires any organizations receiving more than 20% of their funding from overseas to register as "foreign agents" or face substantial fines.

The ruling Georgian Dream party say it's modeled on U.S. legislation dating from the 1930s.

Critics say it is reminiscent of a Russian law that the Kremlin has used to crack down on dissent.

“We are protesting the Russian law. I call it Russian law, I cannot call it anything else because it is completely Russian law, controlled and imposed upon us by Russia."

"We are protesting against the Russian law that the Georgian government is trying to take and ruin the country. We are here and we are ready to fight!"

In clashes on Tuesday evening, protesters threw Molotov cocktails and stones at police, who used tear gas and water cannon to dispel the crowds. The interior ministry said 66 people had been detained.

Protests continued on Wednesday afternoon with a march to mark International Women's Day, which is a public holiday in Georgia.

Opposition parties called for a second night of mass protests outside parliament.

The issue has deepened a rift between Georgian Dream, which leads the government and has a majority in parliament, and the country's President Salome Zourabichvili, a pro-European who has moved away from the party since being elected with its support in 2018.

She has backed the protesters, saying on Tuesday that lawmakers who voted for the draft law had violated the constitution.