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Second gay march concludes without violence

By Ernest Petrosyan
Monday, May 21
A demonstration condemning homophobia and the previous day's violence committed by a group of radical Orthodox priests and their supporters was held in front of the parliament building in Tbilisi on May 18.

A few dozen gay activists, as well as other human rights supporters carried rainbow flags, and other banners that read: “I Love My Gay Friend”, “Homosexuality is not a Choice, but Homophobia is”, “Lesbians are ok,” and so on.

“The gay pride march is a form of demonstration that aims to underscore the fact that those in the LGBT community are all members of our society, and hence they are demanding their rights from society. This protest is not for gay rights; this protest was organized on behalf of human rights in general. This demonstration is to show that we are expressing our solidarity with those who were victims of the aggression committed by the extremist groups and police yesterday” explained Giorgi Tabagari.

Public opinion on sexual minorities varies in Georgia. Members within the radical Orthodox community see a huge threat in such gay pride marches. Though some find homosexuals acceptable; they nevertheless still find marches, demonstration and other forms of “homosexual advertisements” unacceptable.

“It was intentionally organized yesterday. 20 gay supporters were followed by 50 journalists and 200 policemen. The policemen arrested them and they were later released. It was a provocation,” said one member of the radical Orthodox group.

“It is unacceptable to conduct such gay supporting demonstrations near schools. It can have a negative influence on the [young] generation. I do not mind whether someone is gay or whoever, but I am against the advertisement of it,” said one of Orthodox priests.

Netherlands Ambassador to Georgia, Pieter Jan Langenberg, was among those foreign diplomats condemning homophobia. “The council of European countries cannot accept homophobia. It was good to see that the rights of free expression were honored, that people had the chance to come out for the few. Yesterday was a clash as far as I know, but more or less the police succeeded and separated people. I would be very happy if today this meeting will end peacefully. I think it would be a good thing for freedom of expression and tolerance,” Ambassador Langenberg told The Messenger.

About 30 policemen were mobilized to prevent violence during the demonstration, however, when the rally was about to conclude, one radical Orthodox activist began insulting the protestors, and was subsequently detained by police. However, he was quickly released as a result of the intervention on behalf of the Kashveti church priest.