"We will ensure that only the Family Holiness Day, the holiday established by the Patriarch, will be celebrated this year on 17 May. The Gay Parade will not happen."
The Georgian ultra-rightist organizations Georgian March and Georgian Idea have announced that they would be holding rallies in Tbilisi until 17 May to disrupt the activities of human rights activists and the liberal-minded part of society who intend to celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia.
The ultra-rightists have started their action a day before, on 14 May, near the parliament building. Thousands of supporters of ultra-nationalist and neo-Nazi organizations gathered there, and representatives of two political parties, the Democratic Movement – United Georgia and the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia joined in.
Participants of the action put forward the following demands to the authorities:
• Abolish the law on anti-discrimination [passed by the Georgian parliament in 2014 under the pressure of European structures. It makes provisions for administrative and criminal punishment for discrimination on any grounds, including gender, ethnicity, religious and sexual orientation – JAMnews];
• Strengthen the fight against drug popularization;
• Strengthen the protection of traditional values;
They also demand the release of five members of the Georgian March organization who were arrested during one of the previous actions near the office of the Rustavi-2 TV company. At the time protesters attacked the operator, and also damaged a company vehicle.
ultra-rightist action is in response to the two-day large-scale youth protest action, which was held at the parliament on 12 and 13 May under the slogan ‘For the sake of our freedom’. The protests were in response to a raid conducted by police on Tbilisi nightclubs Bassiani and Gallery.
Dozens of young people were beaten and detained by the police on charges of distributing and using drugs. Afterwards thousands of young people went to protest in the city centre and demanded the resignation of the Prime Minister and the leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, as well as the punishment of those guilty of committing violence against young people.
The action ended late in the evening of 13 May with an agreement reached between activists who met with Giorgi Gakharia, the Minister of Interior of Georgia. The minister apologized and said that discussions on the liberalization of the drug policy in Georgia would begin, and also promised to look into the details of the special operation and punish the perpetrators if they are identified.
Neo-Nazi groups have called the ‘For the sake of our freedom’ rally as ‘propaganda of narcotics’, and tried to dusturb the scene and physically punish its participants. Police stepped in and managed to prevent the situation from escalating.
The ultra-rightists insist that the government has become a ‘hostage of liberals’, that drug dealers and LGBT people are being propagated in Georgia, and that all this negatively affects the youth. They say they decided to come out to the streets so that the authorities pay attention to, in their opinion, the main problem – a difficult socio-economic situation in Georgia.
Their banners read ‘There is no place for the advanced here’ [in Russian ‘advanced’ refers to individuals with more progressive viewpoints -ed], ‘Today’s progressiveness is a disgrace’, and the participants chanted a popular slogan: ‘Long live Georgia!’.
special subject for the ultra-rightists is the International Day Against Homophobia, which is celebrated around the world on 17 May. Several confrontations have taken place in Georgia on this day:
On 17 May 2013 dozens of people gathered with posters and balloons in the center of Tbilisi calling on the public to be more tolerant towards people with different sexual orientations. Priests and Orthodox activists organized their own protest action in response. Hundreds of people rushed to the scene, where pro-LGBT rights rally participants were beaten and then rescued by police, who evacuated them on buses. These buses were showered by stones.
In early May of 2014 Ilia II, the Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia, came up with the idea to declare 17 May as a Family Holiness Day. Since then, every year on 17 May, a procession with icons and crosses takes place on Rustaveli Avenue, led by Orthodox priests. Those who go out to campaign against homophobia have to be carefully guarded by the police.
“We will ensure that only the Family Holiness Day, the holiday established by the Patriarch, will be celebrated this year on 17 May. The Gay Parade will not happen,” said Sandro Bregadze, one of the Georgian March leaders.