Georgian LGBT Activists Call Off Pride March After Violent Attacks

LGBT campaigners in Georgia have canceled a planned Pride march after opponents attacked activists and journalists and the government and church spoke out against the event.Hundreds of violent counter-protesters took to the streets of Tbilisi against the Pride march scheduled for the evening.At least 15 journalists were attacked by mobs at different locations, including two RFE/RL reporters, while covering the Tbilisi Pride events.Videos showed anti-LGBT groups waving Georgian flags scaling the Tbilisi Pride headquarters, tearing town pride flags, and ransacking the office.In a statement announcing the march had been called off, Tbilisi Pride accused the government and church of emboldening a “huge wave of hate” against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community and failing to protect citizens’ rights.Earlier on July 5, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said it was inappropriate to hold a Pride march, arguing that it would create confrontation and was “unacceptable for a large segment of the Georgian society.”He also claimed that the “radical opposition” led by exiled former President Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement was behind the march and sought to create “unrest.”The Georgian Orthodox Church had also called on supporters to gather against the Pride march. Videos of the mobs showed some priests joining the protests.Opponents of the march push a man as they block off the capital’s main avenue to an LGBT march in Tbilisi, Georgia, July 5, 2021.Tbilisi Pride organizers said that although they could not go out “in a street full of violence” supported by the government and church, they would continue to advocate for LGBT rights.
“We would like to tell the supporters clearly that the fight for dignity will continue, this is an indispensable process that despite the hate groups, the Patriarchate and the government’s resistance, will not stop,” they said.Condemning the violence, the U.S. and EU diplomatic missions in Georgia, as well as the embassies of 16 other countries, issued a joint statement calling on the Georgian government to protect people’s constitutional right to gather peacefully.”We condemn today’s violent attacks on the civic activists, community members, and journalists, as well as the failure of the government leaders and religious officials to condemn this violence,” the joint statement said. Rights groups also condemned the violence and accused the government of supporting hate groups.”Violent far-right crowds supported by Church & emboldened by incredibly irresponsible statement of PM @GharibashviliGe gathered in Tbilisi center to prevent Pride March, attacking journalists & breaking into Pride office,” wrote Giorgi Gogia, the associate director for Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch. 

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