Georgia: extremists and clerics attack LGBT activists

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A counter-march launched by far-right groups and part of the Orthodox clergy forced the organizers to cancel the Pride March which was to take place on July 5 in Tbilisi, Georgia. Counter-protesters directly attacked the offices of several LGBT organizations and attacked journalists.

“We cannot endanger human lives and demonstrate in streets full of violent aggressors.” It was with these words that the organizers of the Georgian Pride March announced its cancellation on Facebook July 5 at midday, a few hours before its scheduled launch at 6 p.m.

The “violent aggressors” to whom it is referred were several dozen marching in the capital Tbilisi, Monday July 5 at the beginning of the afternoon. According to several media, they attacked the police and beat around 20 journalists.

They also stormed the premises of associations for the defense of freedoms and LGBT. A video showing them climbing the facade of a building where the premises of Tbilisi Pride, the main association behind the organization of the Pride March, are located, was particularly shocking. Several individuals are seen attempting to tear up and stomp on the rainbow and transgender pride flags that hung on the window.

In another video filmed in the afternoon by a member of Tbilisi Pride, we see the moments that followed this attack: the premises of the organization were ransacked.

On June 6, the Prime Minister denounced this violence and precise that 53 journalists were injured and 11 people detained as part of a police investigation into the violence.

The cancellation of the march had also been desired by the authorities, the Prime Minister, Irakli Garibashvili, having considered the same day that “to hold a so-called Pride March” was “not reasonable because it creates the threat of ‘a civil confrontation’ and that this type of gathering was ‘unacceptable to a large part of Georgian society’.

“There were a lot of priests in the procession of demonstrators”

Tamaz Sozashvili is the co-founder of the Tbilisi Pride organization. He was in the premises of another association on Monday, July 5, which was also targeted by far-right demonstrators. We were able to question him that very evening.

These homophobic activists wanted to intimidate us, they tried to find out where we were and attacked us. In our premises, they destroyed everything inside, our documents, our equipment. The worst part is that the police did nothing to stop them.

I was in the premises of Shame movement [ONG géorgienne de défense des libertés, NDLR], which they also attacked. Members of our organization were then moved to the United Nations House [les locaux des Nations unies, NDLR]. When the counter-demonstrators learned about it, they gathered in front of this building. It’s really like they’re stalking us.

We are of course in shock, especially in the face of inaction and the lack of support from the government. I fail to understand how they could have allowed such things to happen.

We never managed to organize a Pride March in good conditions in Georgia, but for this year we were finally hopeful to make it happen. Several ambassadors such as those from France or the Netherlands were planning to participate. But once again our hopes were showered by these homophobic activists and part of the Orthodox clergy.

I was able to see many priests in the procession of demonstrators and I heard that high-ranking religious also participated.

There, I am in the fifth hiding place of the day, we were divided into three groups to avoid the attacks of these men. I really don’t feel safe and hope that the international community will take stock of what has just happened.

Many western embassies issued a joint statement on July 5 denouncing the violence.

If since 2014, discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity has been banned in Georgia, the country remains very conservative and under the influence of the powerful Orthodox Church.

In 2019, a famous businessman had even set up “popular militias“armies, for example the“ Council of Real Men, ”to“ eradicate sin and heresy. ”This initiative whose main objective was to fight the LGBT community had received the tacit support of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

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