Opponents of Tbilisi Pride attack opposition, journalists
Protesters against Tbilisi Pride attack journalists and opposition
Protesters against the Tbilisi Pride March of Dignity have destroyed the tents that the opposition set up in front of the parliament building several months ago, demanding early parliamentary elections.
The incident was preceded by a statement by Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili, who claimed that Pride week was organized by opposition and ex-President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili.
Representatives of the far-right groups gathered in front of the parliament building at about 12 noon, immediately after PM Garibashvili’s speech, and began to forcibly dismantle the tents.
At the same time, they began to attack the journalists who had come to report the incident. The journalists of the Formula, Rustavi-2 TV channels, as well as Tabula, Netgazeti, and Palitra news outlets were subjected to physical and verbal abuse, and their equipment was damaged. Other journalists were also prevented from covering the actions of far-right activists. Some of the attackers were armed with batons.
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The protesters say they are punishing the media for “promoting a perverted way of life”.
One of the tents that the protesters destroyed had a large image of ex-President Saakashvili and his quote in which he promised to “return home”.
Among the groups that are currently destroying the opposition’s tents are the representatives of Union of Orthodox Parents and Georgian March far-right groups, as well as supporters of the ultra-right nationalist businessman-politician Levan Vasadze, who is famous for his homophobic statements.
“They spat on us, insulted us, beat some of us. They know that they will be forgiven for everything. They act very bravely. The reaction of the Ministry of Internal Affairs was extremely late. When we arrived at the parliament, there were no police at all”, said Dea Mamiseishvili, a journalist for Channel One, who was wounded by one of the supporters of right-wing groups.
By 13.00, the police had been mobilized in front of the parliament. According to Georgian media reports, there are only a few police officers there, and no special units are in sight.
All Georgian channels broadcast the ongoing events live so that their viewers can witness the aggression of right-wing groups against journalists, who are being attacked and insulted on air.
The aggravation of the situation on the central Rustaveli Avenue in Tbilisi was expected: as Tbilisi Pride’s March of Dignity is scheduled to take place today. The March is aimed at ending homophobia and discrimination against Georgia’s LGBT+ community.
The Pride Week began in Tbilisi on July 1 with the screening of a documentary on the challenges faced by the LGBT+ community in Georgia. Ultra-right and homophobic groups, as well as clergymen, tried to disrupt the screening of the film, however, were stopped by the police cordon. As a result of clashes, about 20 people were detained.
In an attempt to prevent the March of Dignity in Tbilisi, the right-wing groups arrived at the office of the Tbilisi Pride organization on the morning of July 5 and threw bottles and construction waste at it.
The same protest was held outside of the office of the opposition civil movement Shame which openly supports Tbilisi Pride.
The position of violent groups is supported and shared by the Georgian Orthodox Church. It was the church that encouraged its parishioners to take it to the streets to prevent the Pride march from taking place.
Until now, the Georgian government has not prohibited the holding of the Pride Week and the March of Dignity, although it has openly stated that it considers these actions “ an unnecessary cause of destabilization”.
However, such an incentive changed on July 5, when, at a government meeting, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili spoke out against the March of Dignity. He said that the opposition and Mikhail Saakashvili in particular, is behind the organization of the protest:
“We know their goal: to bring civil unrest and chaos to the country. But, of course, they will not succeed, we will not allow this”, Garibashvili said.