The event in the Georgian capital has been called off after alt-right protesters stormed LGBTQ+ activists’ headquarters
The Pride march in Tbilisi, Georgia has been cancelled after far-right demonstrators violently attacked the offices of the organisers, tearing down rainbow flags and assaulting activists.
Videos show anti-gay protesters scaling a three-storey building to break into the headquarters of the Tbilisi Pride march, smashing equipment and physically attacking Tbilisi Pride members and journalists covering the event.
“No words can explain my emotions and thoughts right now,” Tamaz Sozashvili, one LGBTQ+ activist, tweeted. “This is my working space, my home, my family today. Left alone in the face of gross violence.”
The Georgian prime minister, Irakli Garibashvili, later appeared to blame the attack on the event itself, suggesting that the Pride organisers had provoked the violence. He said it was “unreasonable” to hold the demonstration in a public place that could lead to “civil confrontation”. Elsewhere, a member of parliament accused the “radical opposition” of sponsoring the Pride events.
The organisers said later that the march would not go ahead. “War was declared against civil society and democratic values. The actions of the government have clearly shown that they don’t want to perform its direct duty. The inaction of the executive power has put the health and lives of Georgian citizens in real danger,” read a statement.
“We were chased by radical groups, we were also attacked on several occasions. It was really hard to continue further work so we cancelled yesterday’s event to avoid further escalation of the violence that was happening on the streets of Tbilisi,” Giorgi Tabagari, co-founder of Tbilisi Pride, tells Dazed.
“The government failed to address the issue with the hate groups. They were probably cooperating because there were several occasions when we had to move locations,” he recounts. “Somehow these radical hate groups would magically appear in those places very quickly. All this coordination and lack of presence by police on the hotspots was a major problem.”
According to Tabagari, 55 people were injured during yesterday’s attacks, but only eight people were arrested. “Even the statistics say that the police barely did their job yesterday,” he adds. “It seemed like (the attack) had been coordinated with the church.”
“As owner of only gay bar in Georgia, a lot of LGBTQ+ people are writing to tell me that they are hiding in their homes and are afraid to walk in streets,” says Nia Gvatua, who heads gay bar Success. “Our government is pro Russia and they did nothing to prevent this. It was definitely collaborative (on their part).”
This is what's happening in Tbilisi, Georgia right now. They are attacking the Tbilisi Pride office. Police does nothing to stop them. Prime Minister urges the Pride to cancel the march planned for today.— anya 𓆩♡𓆪 WEEKEND (@YUNH0ZEN) July 5, 2021
This is where I live - an invalid state. pic.twitter.com/7JQQico2XK
Despite Tbilisi’s vibrant LGBTQ+ community, Georgia remains a socially conservative country, with Tbilisi Pride drawing the ire of ultra-conservative politicians and Orthodox church leaders.
In 2013, priests led a mob chanting “no to gays” during an attack on a Pride parade in Tbilisi that resulted in organisers going into hiding.
It took six years for Tbilisi Pride to return to the streets with a “dignity march” in 2019 – an event that was nearly cancelled after the government said it couldn’t guarantee the safety of those protesting.
“International solidarity is very important,” said Tabagari. “We have had a lot of feedback from abroad – activist groups, the media. By doing so, we were able to put a lot of pressure on the government to handle the issues more responsibly. At this point, it’s important to keep sharing information and raising awareness.”
Follow @TbilisiPride for more updates.