Thousands of demonstrators shouting nationalist slogans massed in Tbilisi, the capital of Soviet Georgia, for the second straight day Saturday, but tanks pulled out of the city center and there was little tension, Georgian journalists reported.
A journalist at the Georgian news agency Gruzinform said speakers addressed about 20,000 people gathered in front of the government and Communist Party headquarters.About 30 major industrial plants remained on strike, including the huge Dmitrov aircraft engine plant, and virtually all schools in the city were closed, she said.
A Georgian activist, speaking from Georgia's second city of Kutaisi, said about 4,000 people staged a nationalist demonstration in the city center.
About 30 protesters, mainly students, had been arrested after a sit-in in front of the party headquarters, he said. There was no independent confirmation of the report.
In a wave of strikes and demonstrations Friday about 100,000 people massed on the embankment of the Kura River to support 100 people staging a hunger strike to press nationalist demands.
But unlike Friday's protest, tanks and other armored vehicles made only a token appearance in the city center. The few policemen in attendance made no attempt to intervene.
"The tanks moved about the embankment early in the morning, but now they're standing idle some distance from the city center," the journalist said. "There are no armored vehicles now near the meeting."
Some demonstrators at the gatherings have called for the secession of Georgia from the Soviet Union.
Others have urged the complete integration into the Transcaucasian republic of Abkhazia, an autonomous area on the Black Sea coast. Demands by Abkhazians to secede from Georgia and create their own republic have sparked tension throughout the region recently.
Georgians fiercely oppose the demands of the Abkhazians, who are a minority even in their own region.
One Georgian group has organized a demonstration Sunday for the Abkhaz town of Gagra, with up to 5,000 demonstrators expected to be bused in from other parts of Georgia.
An Abkhazian group, Ayglara (unity), called off a rival demonstration in the same town Sunday.
Both Georgians and Abkhazians have warned that tensions could develop into the sort of violence that killed 91 people in clashes between ethnic Armenians and Azerbaijanis in the past year.