On 8 July, LGBTQI activists held a pride march for the first time in Tbilisi despite threats from ultra-conservative and homophobic groups. On the same day, Tbilisi Pride opponents gathered in front of the Georgian parliament after failing to stop the Pride march from going ahead, disrupting anti-Russian occupation protestors.

Ultra-conservative opponents of Tbilisi Pride and the Georgian Patriarch strongly opposed Tbilisi Pride. On the morning of the planned Pride march, clergymen marched from Republic Square to the Georgian Parliament demanding that the government prevent Tbilisi Pride from happening.

Georgian businessman Levan Vasadze also joined the rally in front of parliament together with his supporters and representatives from extreme-right political and social movements such as ‘Georgian March’ saying “they will never allow such events to take place in Georgia.”

On June 16, Vasadze had released a video address calling for “real” men to prevent Tbilisi Pride from taking place and to create a “people’s army”.

“We will divide the city, patrol the city quietly, quietly, we will not have any weapon, except for one – we will bind their hands with belts and take them away,” Vasadze threatened.

The Church also called on the government to prevent Tbilisi Pride from taking place saying it is ‘absolutely unacceptable’ and a ‘sodomite sin’.

‘Regrettably, certain LGBT groups and their supporters present information to foreign countries as if they are under much duress and persecution and receive significant funding based on this argumentation.’ read a statement by the church. ‘They want to present their activities as a fight against discrimination, while in reality, they work to popularize and propagate their way of life, aiming to officially and legally sanction it.

Georgia has a poor track record of protecting the rights of its LGTQI community. In 2013, a small anti-homophobia march was met violently by approximately 20,000 counter-protestors. Around 28 people were injured during the clashes.

Given the threat of violence, Tbilisi Pride organizers had asked the Ministry of Georgian Affairs (MIA) to guarantee their protection and right to protest, which the MIA denied.

Tbilisi Pride organizers cancelled their planned march twice. On June 22, they delayed their march due to the anti-Russian occupation protests that began on June 20.

In addition, on Monday, they decided to cancel the event after the time and location were leaked online. However, around 40 activists and the Tbilisi Pride organizers still gathered in front of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, fooling their opponents and avoiding violence.

Chanting “Gakharia, resign!” during the procession, the LGBTQI protestors criticized the Minister of Internal Affairs Giorgi Gakharia for failing to guarantee their safety. “The violent regime should end,” stated march participants. “We want to live a decent life.”

LGBTQI protestors also used a drone to fly a LGBTQI rainbow flag over opponent protestors who had gathered in front of the parliament with Vasadze.

After hearing that the Pride march had taken place, ultra-conservative groups and Vasadze rushed to the Interior Ministry. However, the march had already finished after around thirty minutes.

On July 9, Tbilisi Pride released a statement that they had ‘achieved some significant results’ by organizing Tbilisi Pride. However, they were critical of the government’s handling of the event: ‘the authorities have shown us that fundamental human rights are neither protected in Georgia nor is there any political will for its protection,’ read the statement.

By Amy Jones

Photo source – Tbilisi Pride

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