The police are looking into calls to create anti-LGBT patrols in Tbilisi ahead of Pride Week
Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze commented earlier today on June 17 on the public tension that has arisen in the days leading up to Tbilisi Pride Week, and the threats that have been made against the event and its organisers.
Tbilisi Pride is planned to be held 18-23 June, but the Patriarchate of Georgia has called on the authorities not to allow the event to take place.
Bakhtadze said the rights of all people are protected in Georgia and the right to self-expression is guaranteed by the constitution – he expressed gratitude to police officers who have prevented clashes from taking place between LGBT and anti-LGBT demonstrators in recent days “and did not break the very important balance.”
“Here I want to share my impressions as an ordinary citizen. I think that the [LGBT] issue is being artificially exacerbated and imposed on Georgian society in order to make the political atmosphere more aggressive. I don’t think that the [LGBT] issue is problematic in Georgia today”, Bakhtadze said.
Police looking into calls to create anti-LGBT patrol
The Ministry of Internal Affairs has launched an investigation into calls to create illegal patrol groups whose purpose it would be to prevent Tbilisi Pride events from taking place.
The case concerns the calls of businessman Levan Vasadze to create “people’s squads”, that would prevent Tbilisi Pride from holding its scheduled events.
On the same day, on June 16, Vasadze threatened to use force against the police if it were to interfere with these so-called “people’s squads.”
“Attempts to take over the functions of the police or other government departments will be immediately stopped. Violence against the police, insubordination to its demands and every case of violation of the law will not remain without a corresponding response from the Ministry of Internal Affairs”, the statement of the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs said.
Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Georgia Natia Mezvrishvili says “the department will conduct all the necessary investigative and procedural actions to evaluate the actions of each specific person. I do not know any knights [ed. a title enjoyed by Levan Vasadze], but anyone who raises their hand against a policeman will be severely punished to the fullest extent of the law. No one has the right to break through a police cordon.”
“An assembly of real men”
Businessman Levan Vasadze organized a meeting in the center of Tbilisi on the evening of June 16, to which he invited only men.
The meeting was announced after Vasadze, a number of clergymen and right-wing activists tried on June 14 to prevent a pro-LGBT rally from being held near the government administration building.
The police prevented all attempts of the group to reach the LGBT rally, and 28 people were detained in the process.
At the aforementioned meeting in Vera Park, Levan Vasadze announced the creation of “people’s squads” and “legions” who would patrol Tbilisi streets on June 18-23, i.e. on days when Tbilisi Pride is to take place.
“We will divide the city into districts and we will patrol it – quietly, calmly, without any weapons. We will tie their hands and expel them from the places where they will be found”, said Vasadze.
He did not leave without directing words to foreign diplomats who support the holding of Tbilisi Pride events: he says that even foreign ambassadors will be tied up by guards and then taken to their embassy.
Reaction of the authorities and opposition
“These are criminal and extremely dangerous actions! Propaganda of such aggression is unambiguously unacceptable!”, ruling party MP Tamar Hulordava said, responding to the actions of Levan Vasadze.
She stressed at the same time that the state will not allow violence to be committed and that the police will fulfill its function.
Opposition members placed responsibility for the current public tension on the authorities.
“The Georgian Dream has created an atmosphere in which pro-Putin, extremist forces openly call for violence … The indulgent attitude to what is happening is complicity”, said member of the opposition European Georgia party Sergo Ratiani.
“Their activities should be investigated first of all by the special services, in order to identify possible ties with the Kremlin,” said Khatia Dekanoidze, a member of the opposition United National Movement.