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Supporters of Tbilisi Pride confronted by homophobic counter-protesters in Tbilisi

By Levan Abramishvili
Monday, June 17
Several activists gathered in front of the Chancellery of the Government of Georgia on June 14, demanding from the Government to respond to the statement issued by the Georgian Patriarchate, where they ask the officials to prevent the Pride march. The activists also demanded from the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) to provide security for the upcoming Tbilisi’ Dignity March’.

Quickly after the protest was announced, conservative groups also mobilized in front of the Chancellery.

In the statement issued by the Patriarchate, Tbilisi Pride was said to aim at provoking ‘unrest and conflict’ in Georgia. It also mentioned that LGBT people were faking being persecuted for gaining grants from foreign donors.

Several well-known conservative groups and individuals were present at the counter-protest in front of the Chancellery, including Georgian March, an ultra-nationalistic neo-fascist group and Levan Vasadze, an infamous businessman known for his radical ideas and close ties with Russia.

The two protests were divided by several lines of police officers. Queer rights activists held signs saying: “Come out for equality,” while chanting “no to violence,” “the truth will win” etc. while on the opposing of the police, conservative groups were shouting “shame,” and demanding for the activists to leave the territory.

“We came here because we won’t allow the celebration of immorality. No matter how many ambassadors interfere in our country’s internal affairs, no matter how much pressure we have on our society, we will not celebrate the anti-Caucasian, anti-traditional way of life and the propagandists of such immorality,” said Vasadze. While attending the counter-protest, he insulted a journalist, saying she was “stupid” for thinking that he was the cause of the unrest on the territory.

According to the statement issued by the MIA, during the concurring protests, a total of 28 persons, all from the counter-protest, were arrested.

“Representatives of law enforcement agencies detained 28 persons administratively for resistance to police and for petty hooliganism, who tried to break the police cordon and expressed their aggression by throwing eggs against the peaceful participants of the manifestation, their supporters and also against the journalists,” reads the statement.

21 of them were later released underwritten undertaking, some of them receiving fines of GEL 1000, while 7 remain in the police custody.

“The Ministry is studying in details video materials reflecting each incident that took place during the manifestation, which will be given a legal assessment in the shortest time,” reads the statement issued by the MIA.

Pro-pride activists decided to adjourn the protest in the early morning of Saturday, announcing that they will continue talks with the Government on the upcoming Tbilisi Pride.

The Public Defender of Georgia Nino Lomjaria responded to the events developed during the demonstration.

She called for “timely and adequate response by the investigative bodies” to the violence that took place in front of the Chancellery on June 14.

“In particular, there were cases when journalists were attacked and prevented from performing their professional activities; demonstrators were threatened with violence and abuse; there were attempts to attack and abuse the Deputy Public Defender,” reads the statement of the Ombudsman.

According to the Public Defender, it is essential that political officials release public statements and condemn violence.

“Despite political differences, all political community should agree on that humiliation of any group and encouragement of violence against them is inadmissible. Tolerance and respect for the different is the basis of our country’s constitutional and legal order, which is threatened by the strengthening of similar groups,” said Lomjaria.

The President of Georgia, Salome Zourabichvili, also responded to the June 14 events, stating that she is the President of everyone.

“I’m everyone’s president, which means that I’m also a president of those people, no matter what their sexual or religious orientation is,” said the President. But, she added that the provocation of confrontation is unacceptable from either of the sides.

“I don’t agree with the provocation from either side. The country has enough confrontations, which it has for various reasons. We don’t need confrontations that are copied, brought from the outside,” she said.

High-ranking members of the Georgian Orthodox Church also spoke about the protests. Archbishop Iakob mentioned during the Sunday Sermon that “liberal forces must realize that it is too much when they try to impose something unacceptable for our nation.”

On Saturday, Levan Vasadze invited men to gather in Vera Park on Sunday to discuss the “action plan.”

“I am inviting men. What needs to be done, needs to be done by men. I ask women and children to stay home. I call on men, including Georgians, Azerbaijanis, Ossetians, Abkhazians, Russians, Ukrainians, Greeks, Kurds, Yezidis - everyone who lives in our homeland. …I will introduce an action plan. This action plan is the protection of order in Georgia,” said Vasadze in the video address.

He also mentioned that he will not allow the LGBT community to take part in any of the planned demonstrations.

“In these coming weeks, we will not allow the LGBT activists to stage any public action, we won’t allow the police to cordon them off – wherever this might happen, in the movie theaters, in parks, in the streets, in the mountains or on the lakes, we will track you down everywhere, we will break through any cordon, we will overwhelm you,” he said in the video address.

It is apparent that the idea of holding a “Dignity March” has a profoundly divisive response within the society, but some members of the LGBT community also spoke up against holding the march.

Before the protests on Friday, Georgian transgender woman Gabriela Roskipova-Romanova held a press conference and mentioned that transgender people would not join the pride week events.

She said that even though they’ respected LGBTQ activists’ in their fight, participating in Pride wouldn’t help the devastating situation that the trans community faces.

According to Roskipova-Romanova, after the announcement of Tbilisi Pride, attacks on trans women, who are often engaged in sex work, became more frequent.

In response to her comments, some of the queer activists sounded off on social media, stating that the organizers of Tbilisi Pride “weren’t considering the needs of every member of the community.”

The organizers were also criticized earlier this year, when Tbilisi Pride was announced, for not holding meetings with the members of the community and making the decision to hold the “Dignity March” without the consultations. They were concerned that with the rising visibility, attacks against “the most visible members’ “would increase.

The first ever Pride week will take place in Tbilisi on June 18-23, through which, “Dignity March” will also take place.