Thousands of right-wing protestors stormed a LGBTQ+ Pride event in Georgia’s capital of Tbilisi, setting fire to rainbow flags and clashing with police.
Organisers of Tbilisi Pride announced on Saturday (8 July) that they had been forced to shut down the event as participants were evacuated to safety after the authorities failed to maintain the perimeter.
The exact number of those making up the anti-LGBTQ+ mob has varied in media reports of the incident. Some report hundreds while others place the figure closer to 2,000 or 5,000 right-wing protestors marching towards the lakeside park where the event was held.
Many of the protestors, who included Orthodox Christian clergy, waved the red and white flags of Georgia and religious icons while they scuffled with police.
Others destroyed items at the LGBTQ+ event, vandalised the stage, burned Pride flags and looted the area, though there were no reports of injuries.
The incident comes two years after a Pride march in the Georgian capital was cancelled following an right-wing attack on organiser headquarters.
Nearly 50 journalists covering the violence were injured as rioters tore through Tbilisi in 2021, including TV-Pirveli cameraman Aleksandre Lashkarava. Lashkarava tragically died six days after a right-wing, anti-LGBTQ+ mob brutally beat him.
In a statement addressing Saturday’s incident, Tbilisi Pride criticised law enforcement for failing to “use proportional force and measures against the attackers”. The organisers said police failed to disperse the right-wing mob and instead “compelled” the Pride attendees to “leave the area with a transport that had been prepared previously”.
Tbilisi Pride believe the attack was a “well-planned operation orchestrated jointly” by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia and Russian-affiliated, far-right group Alt Info, who they claim disrupted the LGBTQ+ event.
“This was an organised attack by the Georgian government and the Putinist violent group on democracy, human rights and innocent people who wanted to enjoy the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution,” the group said.
“We hope that everyone, for whom violence is unacceptable and who wants to see Georgia advancing on its democratic and European path, will condemn the events that unfolded today and will express solidarity.”
Deputy interior minister Alexander Darakhvelidze argued the open area in which Tbilisi Pride was held had been difficult to police. He said this meant the anti-LGBTQ+ mob found ways to bypass security to “enter the area of the event”.
Animosity towards the LGBTQ+ community remains rife in Georgia, which has a strong Orthodox Christian influence. Just before Tbilisi Pride was set to begin, the Patriarchate of the Georgian Orthodox Church called for the country to adopt an ‘LGBTQ+ propaganda’ law.
Critics have long accused the country’s ruling Dream party of perpetuating anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric as well as tacitly supporting anti-LGBTQ+ and nationalist groups.
Rémy Bonny, executive director of LGBTQ+ NGO Forbidden Colours, said EU countries should “open their doors” immediately to Tbilisi Pride organisers because of the violent protests.
“Their lives are in danger,” Bonny wrote. “Thousands of anti-LGBTIQ hooligans are hunting them down. Georgian authorities are not able to provide safety.”
Georgia’s president Salome Zourabichvili, a frequent critic of the government, condemned the police for failing to protect the Pride event in Tbilisi.
Zourabichvili also slammed the Dream party for failing to “condemn their own followers” for perpetuating violence against the queer community.
“The ruling party failed to condemn their own followers, who openly propagate hate speech and incitation to violence,” Zourabichvili wrote on Twitter. “This is a shame for a country, which has for centuries considered tolerance as its identity.”
by Maggie Baska
Source – PinkNews