As many as 2,000 anti-LGBTQ+ protesters stormed a Pride celebration in Georgia’s capital city Tbilisi on 8 July, resulting in its cancellation.
Many scuffled with police, while others ran to the stage and burned rainbow flags.
Some waved religious symbols, with the Orthodox Christian clergy among those protesting.
Both the event’s organisers and Georgia’s president blamed anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric for causing the incident.
“Today’s developments indicate that today’s planned events were pre-coordinated and agreed upon between the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the violent group Alt-Info,” Tbilisi Pride said in a statement.
“This was an organised attack by the Georgian government and the Putinist violent group on democracy, human rights and innocent people who wanted to enjoy the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution.
“We hope that everyone, for whom violence is unacceptable and who wants to see Georgia advancing on its democratic and European path, will condemn the events that unfolded today and will express solidarity.”
President Salome Zurabishvili accused the ruling Georgian Dream party of failing to condemn its supporters who had openly incited hatred against the LGBTQ+ community.
However, Alexander Darakhvelidze, Interior Minister, claimed the area was difficult to police.
“This was an open area, participants of the protest managed to bypass the security and find other ways to enter the event area,” he said, adding that successful evacuation efforts did take place.
“We’ve been telling the ministry of interior and the police to start investigation immediately but they did not do it”
In response to the attacks, Mark Clayton, the British Ambassador to Georgia, said he was “shocked and saddened” to hear of the event’s cancellation despite the planning and preventive measures that were put into place.
“I call on authorities to ensure that all who broke law & aggressively disrupted a peaceful gathering will be brought to justice,” he wrote on Twitter.
This year’s Pride organiser, Mariam Kvaratskhelia, said a “mass mobilisation” of far-right groups took place ahead of this year’s festivities, with many “openly inciting violence”.
“We’ve been telling the ministry of interior and the police to start investigation immediately but they did not do it,” she told Reuters.
Homophobia continues to be rife in Georgia, partially because LGBTQ+ identities are believed to be a deviation from the traditional Orthodox Christian values that are prevalent in the country.
A survey carried out by the International Social Survey Programme (ISSIP) in 2021 found that 84 per cent of Georgians believe sexual relations between two adults of the same sex are always wrong – the highest score in Europe.