LGBTQ+ campaigners cancelled their “March for Dignity” Pride event in Georgia after counter-protestors stormed and ransacked their offices in Tbilisi.
According to local reports, several campaigners and journalists were attacked during their rampage, which led to the Tbilisi Pride group accusing the government of failing to protect people’s “fundamental rights”.
Shocking footage posted by the LGBTQ+ activists showed their right-wing opponents scaling their building to reach the balcony, where they tore down rainbow flags and were seen breaking into the office of Tbilisi Pride.
Other footage showed a journalist with blood around his mouth and nose, and another counter-protestor driving towards journalists on a scooter. Police were present, but did nothing to stop the attack.
The “March for Dignity” event was planned to go ahead on Monday in central Tbilisi as part of their five day-long Pride celebrations, which commenced last Thursday despite the church and conservatives claiming the event had no place in Georgia.
The campaigners were forced to cancel their event after their equipment was damaged. In a Facebook statement, organisers said: “We cannot risk human lives and take to the streets, which are full of violent attackers.”
Tamaz Sozashvili, one LGBTQ+ activist, tweeted: “No words can explain my emotions and thoughts right now. This is my working space, my home, my family today. Left alone in the face of gross violence.”
Days before the event, Pride Minister Irakli Garibashvili said in a cabinet meeting that the Pride march is “not reasonable as it creates a threat of civil confrontation”.
Although the government suggested alternative routes for their celebrations, Garibashvili said it would be “unacceptable for a large segment” of Georgia, a conservative country where the Orthodox Church has clashed with Western-leaning governments over progressive policies and social issues.
Giorgi Tabagari, Tbilisi Pride’s director, condemned the prime minister’s claims as “unbelievable” and called his comments “shameful” as well as “highly irresponsible”. In another tweet, he called the attack a “major state failure”.
Tabagari told the AFP news agency that he hoped the Pride march would be of “historic importance and demonstrate that attitudes towards sexual minorities are fortunately transforming in Georgia”.
“We feel growing solidarity from Georgian society and from politicians, but there are still violent homophobic groups,” he said.
Alarming images from #Georgia! Extremist hooligans threaten today’s #LGBT #pride in Tblisi. @vvd calls on the authorities to protect participants and journalists! European leaders need to put pressure on Georgia to immediately safeguard freedom and equal rights. @TbilisiPride🏳️🌈 pic.twitter.com/lqKbGPKn9F
— Ruben Brekelmans (@rubenbrekelmans) July 5, 2021
A sad and embarassing day for #Georgia 🇬🇪. Far-right protesters went on a rampage during #Tbilisi Pride today, breaking into the @TbilisiPride office to tear down the 🏳️🌈 flag as police stood by and watched.
TbilisiPride was forced to cancel their event pic.twitter.com/jpJFkOaApx
— Thomas van Linge (@ThomasVLinge) July 5, 2021
We in the LGBTQ community need to look at what is happening at #Pride in Tbilisi, Georgia, today and remember this is what we are fighting against around the world. It's going to take a global effort to stop it.
— Jack Duncan🔻 (@JackDunc1) July 5, 2021
No words can explain my emotions and thoughts right now. This is my working space, my home, my family today. Left alone in the face of gross violence. https://t.co/9MMgLIZR1C
— Tamaz Sozashvili (@TamazSozashvili) July 5, 2021
Aggressive hate groups climbed on our office, which is on the third floor. took down the rainbow flag and damaged the office..
— Giorgi Tabagari (@Tabagari) July 5, 2021