Supporters and opponents of LGBT pride march clash in Tbilisi
Participants of a protest demonstration of LGBT activists in the center of Tbilisi in front of the government office building clashed with Orthodox activists last evening.
The latter tried to prevent LGBT activists from carrying out a demonstration, during which several people were detained by police.
LGBT activists and human rights activists decided to hold a rally after the Patriarchate of the Georgian Orthodox Church appealed to the government with a statement demanding that they not allow the LGBT pride scheduled for June 18-23 to be held in Tbilisi.
A campaign called “State, where are you?” was organized through social media. However, its participants, who came to demand the protection of freedom of expression, were met by participants of a counterdemonstration.
Among them were businessman Levan Vasadze, well-known for his conservative and anti-Western views, members of the Union of Orthodox Parents, priests and right-wing activists.
Levan Vasadze said he would not allow LGBT activists to hold the rally:
“We came for the fact that we cannot allow the holiday of debauchery in Georgia. No matter how many more ambassadors will interfere or what pressure will be put on our society”, said Levan Vasadze.
Nino Bolkvadze, one of the organizers of Pride Tbilisi, called on top officials of the government to announce their position: “Let them bluntly say [whether] we live in a legal or theocratic state.”
The demonstration of LGBT activists was fenced off by a police cordon; eight participants of the contraction were arrested for aggressive behavior.
Georgia Tabagari, one of the organizers of Tbilisi Pride, said that despite the current incident, Pride will nevertheless take place.
“We hope that the state will be [live up to its responsibilities], defend the right to meetings and demonstrations and make a statement against violence,” said Tabagari.
In the evening, the police drove buses to safely evacuate LGBT activists. However, they stated that they were not going to disperse until the representatives of the authorities spoke and announced their position. The activists dispersed only towards about one in the morning, accompanied by the police, leaving the territory in front of the administration of the government.
The Georgian Patriarchate has called on the country’s authorities to prevent the holding of an LGBT pride scheduled for June 18-23 in Tbilisi.
“People of the LGBT community adhere to the rules that are the sin of Sodom, which contradicts both the Christian faith and any traditional religion, as well as common moral values,” the statement of the Georgian Orthodox Church said.
The patriarchate stresses that “the pride [parade] organizers are trying to make it look as if they are facing and fighting discrimination, but in reality they are striving to popularize and promote their way of life and further formalize it.”
“We dissociate ourselves from any violence, but at the same time we declare a great threat that may be caused by the so-called gay pride, and therefore we call on the authorities to prevent this event, which, as is known ahead of time, will cause public outrage”, the patriarchate said.
The Georgian Orthodox Church called upon the diplomatic missions of various states accredited in Georgia, international organizations, ombudsmen and other institutions “to show more respect for the Georgian people in sensitive issues and not to encourage such initiatives in our country.”
“The patriarchy had the opportunity to make amends for the events of May 17, 2013 [ed. the anti-homophobia campaign that was dispersed by aggressive crowds with the encouragement of clergy members]. For six years, the patriarchate had to rethink what happened and understand that planting hatred and encouraging aggression harms its own interests. But, apparently, it considers its rating and the people’s trust to be eternal. But it will end, evil will never triumph!” Said one of the organizers of the event, Giorgi Tabagari, on his Facebook page.
A member of the Republican Party, former MP Tamar Kordzai, appealed to the Minister of the Interior to announce, in view of the statement of the Patriarchate, increased mobilization of staff to protect the event.
“In the end, this is a matter of the honour of the authorities — the patriarchy should not speak in ultimatums and the language of threats!” writes Kordzia.
Meanwhile, the authorities have not guaranteed security for the pride march.
LGBT pride week is scheduled for June 18-23 in Tbilisi. The event was developed by the organization Tbilisi-Pride. During the week, three events are planned: a theatre performance, an international conference and a ‘march of dignity.’
It was the march of dignity that caused the indignation of the church and right-wing groups. The organizers of the event in recent days have repeatedly received threats and warnings that the march will not be allowed to take place.
To ensure security, the organisers have repeatedly met with representatives of the Ministry of the Interior. However, despite this, on May 31, a representative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs stated that the events planned by the Tbilisi Pride’ contain security risks for the organizers and participants themselves.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs proposed to the Tbilisi Pride group “to find other forms of self-expression and alternative event options that would be safer for its participants.”