Tbilisi Pride cancelled after terrifying far-right violence seizes city

Tbilisi Pride was cancelled after a far-right mob descended on the city

Tbilisi Pride in Georgia has been cancelled after violent far-right homophobes stormed organisers’ offices and unleashed a torrent of violence across the city.

The march was due to go ahead on Monday (5 July) in Georgia’s capital city, but organisers announced just hours before that it was being called off amid a surge of anti-LGBT+ violence.

Video footage shared on social media shows a group of men scaling a wall and climbing onto the balcony of Tbilisi Pride’s offices, where they tore down a Pride poster and threw it to the ground.

Tamaz Sozashvili, co-founder of Tbilisi Pride, shared a video on Twitter of their ransacked offices, highlighting the extent of the destruction.

“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,” he wrote on social media.

Tbilisi Pride organiser is ‘scared’ to return to Georgia

Mariam Kvaratskhelia, an LGBT+ activist and co-founder of Tbilisi Pride, said the event’s organisers were safe, but added that at least 10 journalists sustained injuries when members of the far-right and the Orthodox Church of Georgia descended on the city on Monday.

One journalist reported being beaten with a stick as violence escalated, while other reporters had their cameras and equipment broken by the far-right mob.

A video widely-shared on social media shows a man on a scooter driving at a group of journalists, who were forced to jump out of the way at the last minute.

Kvaratskhelia, who is currently based in the UK, said she is “honestly scared” to return to Georgia following the outburst of violence on Monday, branding the country a “hell” for LGBT+ people.

Prime minister Irakli Garibashvili blamed the outbreak of violence on the LGBT+ community at a Cabinet meeting on Monday, saying it was “unreasonable” for them to stage a Pride March.

“Holding of the so-called Pride march is not reasonable as it creates a threat of civil confrontation,” he said, adding that such events are “unacceptable for a large segment of the Georgian society”.

Activists claimed that police stood by and watched the violence unfold instead of intervening, while the country’s Ministry of Internal Affairs issued a statement calling on Tbilisi Pride organisers to cancel the event due to safety risks.

Tbilisi Pride cancelled the event on Monday as violence spiralled out of control.

“The ongoing actions of the government have shown yet again that they are not willing to fulfil their direct responsibilities,” organisers said in a statement.

“The shameful, cruel, anti-state and anti-western remarks by prime minister Irakli Gharibashvili, in which he transferred blame and responsibility for the aggression on activists, is a continuation of the cruel, heinous, Russian-style politics which has been coordinated by the country’s political leadership, the Patriarchate, and pro-Russian groups.”

The group went on to hit out the Minister of Internal Affairs for failing to “take any action to protect the fundamental rights” of the country’s LGBT+ community.

“Considering today’s events, we do not expect the Minister of Internal Affairs to adequately perform their duty as we see that they are not responding to the violence in front of their eyes; the huge wave of hate we are watching right now is inspired and supported by the government and police.”

Embassies urged Georgia’s government to intervene

The violence was condemned in a joint statement issued by the embassies of more than 15 countries.

“Participation in peaceful gatherings is a human right guaranteed by Georgia’s constitution. Violence is simply unacceptable and cannot be excused,” the embassies wrote.

“We call on Georgia’s leaders and law enforcement to act swiftly to protect those exercising their constitutional rights to freedom of expression and assembly, to protect journalists exercising freedom of the press, and to publicly condemn violence.”

Meanwhile, the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) criticised law enforcement authorities for failing to prevent the outbreak of violence in Tbilisi.

The group also hit out at the prime minister for “encouraging” the violent groups, accusing him of “endangering the safety of dozens of journalists and activists”.

The violent scenes came just days after the Orthodox Church in Georgia condemned Tbilisi Pride as an attempt “to legalise grave sin”. 

Tbilisi Pride’s four-day festival kicked off last week with a film screening, which saw 20 members of an ultranationalist mob detained after they threw stones and eggs at queer people.