LGBTQ activists in Georgia said on Monday (July 5) that they were forced to cancel the planned pride march because the protesters attacked activists and journalists and clashed with the police hours after the prime minister condemned the event.
The Pride incident is still controversial in Georgia, which is a conservative country. The powerful Orthodox Church has previously clashed with Western-leaning governments on progressive social issues.
On Monday morning, hundreds of anti-LGBTQ protesters, including activists from a small pro-Russian party, removed an EU flag outside the parliament and vowed to disrupt the pride march that was scheduled to take place later in the day.
According to Georgian Television, the protesters later clashed with police at various locations in the capital Tbilisi and attacked dozens of journalists.
So this happened in Georgia today, Tbilisi. Some (homophobic) people began to attack innocent people with pride in Tbilisi. Many of them have not yet been arrested. Please rt. pic.twitter.com/FQnJFg03pR
— ༺Nino♡༻check rts (@ultrarockwll) July 5, 2021
Several reporters who reported on the incident were hospitalized with bruises and fractures.
#Georgia: IPI is deeply concerned about reports that more than 20 journalists were personally attacked by far-right protesters this morning while reporting on the Pride of 2019. #TbilisiThe investigation by the Ministry of the Interior must ensure that those responsible are quickly identified and prosecuted pic.twitter.com/cYPAB5INXC
— IPI — Global Press Freedom Network (@globalfreemedia) July 5, 2021
The independent broadcaster Formula TV reported that a Polish tourist was stabbed, allegedly because he was wearing earrings.
After the violence, the organizers of the Pride Parade posted a statement on Facebook at 3:00 pm (1100 GMT)-three hours before the event.
They wrote: “We cannot risk our lives and take to the streets, where violent attackers are everywhere.”
“There will be no parade today.”
They added that the office of the Pride of Tbilisi had also been attacked by “homophobic attackers”.
Pride parade “unacceptable”: PM
Giorgi Tabagari, the organizer of the Pride Parade, told AFP: “All day long, we have been secretly changing locations to escape the attackers, but they appeared in front of us.
Tabakari said he suspects that the country’s Secret Service coordinated the attack.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili condemned the incident as “unacceptable to a large part of Georgian society.”
He said at the cabinet meeting, “Holding the so-called pride parade is unreasonable because it poses a threat of internal confrontation.”
“The opposition headed by (former President Mikhail in exile) Saakashvili is behind the Pride Parade, whose purpose is to provoke civil war and unrest,” he added.
The Orthodox Church called on supporters to gather together on Monday afternoon to pray for the public who opposed the pride march.
But Georgia’s rights commissioner Nino Lomjaria (Nino Lomjaria) said that Garibashivili “intensified the already tense situation”.
Pride organizers condemned Gary Bashvili’s “shameful” statement, saying it fueled homophobia and accused his government of failing to “protect basic human rights.”
Critics accuse the ruling Georgian Dream Party government of tacitly supporting homophobic and nationalist groups.
These groups are seen as supporters of the ruling party and have staged protests against pro-Western opposition parties.
The United States and the European Union’s diplomatic missions in Georgia and the embassies of 16 countries including Britain, France and Germany issued a joint statement condemning the government’s position.
“We condemn today’s violent attacks on civic activists, community members and journalists, as well as government leaders and religious officials’ failure to condemn this violence…” it said.
“Violence is unacceptable and cannot be forgiven.”
Last week, the embassy urged the government to “ensure that all people in Georgia have the right to peaceful assembly without exception.”
In recent years, far-right activists and orthodox ultraconservative supporters have violently disrupted pride-related activities.
Pride organizer Tabakari told AFP: “We feel that Georgian society and politicians are becoming more and more united, but there are still violent homophobic groups.”
Georgia legalized homosexuality in 2000 and passed anti-discrimination laws in 2006 and 2014.