On Saturday, July 8, dozens of far-right protestors stormed an LGBTQ+ Pride event in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. Organisers of Tbilisi Pride were forced to shut down the event as an angry mob of anti-LGBTQ+ protestors marched towards the festival grounds, which needed to be evacuated after the authorities were unable to maintain the perimeter.
As the mob reached the event they went on to vandalise the stage, burn Pride flags and loot the area generally, although it appears that luckily no injuries were reported. Many of the protestors, which included Orthodox Christian clergy, waved the Georgian flag and religious icons while fighting the police.
The exact numbers of anti-LGBTQ+ protestors vary, with some reports reporting hundreds of people while others place the number closer to 2000 to 5000 people.
According to Deputy Interior Minister Alexander Darakhvelidze, the open space where Tbilisi Pride was held this year proved challenging to police. He argued that the anti-LGBTQ+ crowd had found ways to “enter the area of the event” by evading security measures, subsequently evading all efforts to secure the assembly.
In a statement issued by Tbilisi Pride addressing the incident, the organisers criticised law enforcement for failing to “use proportional force and measures against the attackers” forcing them to shut down the event.
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The organisers also believe that 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 stated. “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.”
Incidents like this, unfortunately, are nothing new. A Pride march in Georgia’s capital was cancelled two years ago due to a right-wing attack on the organizer’s offices.
When rioters tore through Tbilisi in 2021, about 50 journalists covering the events were injured, with TV-Pirveli cameraman Aleksandre Lashkarava dying six days later after being savagely battered by a right-wing, anti-LGBTQ+ crowd.
In Georgia, a country heavily influenced by Orthodox Christianity, intolerance toward the LGBTQ+ community is still strong. The Patriarchate of the Georgian Orthodox Church urged the passage of an ‘LGBTQ+ propaganda’ law just days before Tbilisi Pride.
Critics have long accused the ruling Dream Party of encouraging anti-LGBTQ+ speech and implicitly backing anti-LGBTQ+ organizations.
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