Anti-gay millionaire says to bring wooden clubs to Georgia’s first ever Pride

tbilisi pride georgia

Georgia’s capital Tbilisi will host the country’s first Pride, running from Tuesday 18 June until Sunday 23 June, but conservative and religious groups are threatening violence against people taking part.

Georgian ultra-conservative millionaire Levan Vasadze said at a rally on Sunday evening (June 16) that he would send out “patrols” to stop the event happening.

“We’ll establish people’s squadrons. Among the crowd gathered here there are a lot of individuals with military experience, a lot of athletes, rugby players, and wrestlers,” said Vasadze, according to Democracy and Freedom Watch.

He continued to call LGBT+ people “propagandists of perversion” and said: “We will tie their hands with belts and take them away.” He warned police not to interfere, and encouraged the crowd to bring wooden clubs to threaten police if they did.

However organisers of Tbilisi Pride are determined that it continue, despite threats of violence.

Mariam Kvaratskhelia, one of the organisers, told OpenDemocracy: “The problem is that the Georgian government doesn’t consider homophobia a problem. They don’t try and solve it. The government and the Church are constantly trading over our rights, and this is very humiliating for us.”

“The first Pride event is always hazardous,” she continued, but said that the LGBT+ celebrations were a “breakthrough” and “a matter of dignity… it’s time that LGBTI people enjoy their right to public assembly.”

The Georgian Orthodox Church called Pride “totally unacceptable”

The Georgian Orthodox Church released a statement about Tbilisi Pride on Friday in which it called on the Georgian government to stop the event, and said it was “totally unacceptable” and would provoke “disorder and confrontation.”

The church’s statement went on: “The lifestyle that the LGBT people are engaged in is the sin of sodom and thus contradicts both Christian faith and the teachings of traditional religions and moral values ​​in general.”

When LGBT+ activists gathered outside the government chancellery, on the same day that the church released its statement, to ask for police protection during Pride they were met by Conservatives chanting homophobic slurs. The LGBT+ activists later had to evacuated as the situation became violent.

Georgia has a dark past when it comes to violence against LGBT+ people. In 2013, LGBT+ activists were attacked and beaten by an anti-gay mob led by priests.