LGBT + activists in Georgia cancel the satisfaction march after an workplace assault
MOSCOW, July 5 (Reuters) – LGBT + activists in Georgia canceled a pride march on Monday after violent groups opposed to the event stormed and ransacked their office in Tbilisi, targeting activists and journalists.
Activists kicked off five days of LGBT + Pride celebrations last Thursday and had planned a “March for Dignity” in central Tbilisi on Monday, shaking off criticism from the Church and conservatives who said the event had no place in Georgia.
The march plan was disrupted by counter-demonstrators on Monday before it could begin.
Video footage posted by LGBT + activists showed protesters scaling their building to reach their balcony, where they tore down rainbow flags and entered the Tbilisi Pride office.
Other footage showed a journalist with a bloody mouth and nose and a man on a scooter riding journalists on the street. According to the police, more than 50 journalists were the target of the violence.
Activists said some of their equipment was destroyed in the attack.
“No words can explain my feelings and thoughts at the moment. This is my job, my home, my family today. Left alone in the face of brutal violence,” tweeted LGBT activist Tamaz Sozashvili.
Media also reported that a tourist was stabbed to death for allegedly wearing an earring.
The Interior Ministry, which said eight people had been detained for the violence, had urged activists to call off their march on security grounds. A statement said various groups gathered and protested and that journalists had been violently attacked.
“We again publicly call on the participants of the ‘Tbilisi Pride’ to refrain from the ‘March of Dignity’ … due to the extent of the counter-manifestations planned by opposing groups …”, it said.
Several Western embassies in Georgia issued a joint statement condemning the attack and calling on the authorities to guarantee freedom of expression and assembly.
“Violence is simply unacceptable and cannot be excused,” the statement said.
President Salome Zourabichvili, who visited the injured journalist, said the violence was “a violation of the core structure of Georgia”.
“What happened is not the Georgia I know,” wrote Zourabichvili, who ran for independent, on Twitter. “It is not Georgia that is based on its core values of tolerance.”
In the run-up, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said he considered the march “not sensible” and said it threatens to cause a public confrontation and is unacceptable to most Georgians, media company Civil Georgia reported.
Human rights activists condemned the violence and accused Garibashvili of encouraging hate groups.
“Violent far-right crowds, supported by (the) church and encouraged by (an) incredibly irresponsible statement by Prime Minister (Garibashvili), gathered in central Tbilisi to prevent the Pride March, attack journalists and enter the Pride office to break in, ”wrote Giorgi Gogia, who works for the American Human Rights Watch.
Reporting by Tom Balmforth / Olzhas Auyezov / Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber Editing by Andrew Osborn and Nick Macfie
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.