April 21, 2024

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Georgia’s LGBTQ Pride festival canceled after far-right groups erupted in violence

Georgia’s LGBTQ Pride festival canceled after far-right groups erupted in violence

A festival planned for Saturday in Tbilisi as part of LGBTQ Pride Week was canceled after several thousand far-right protesters thronged the venue, organizers and Georgian officials said.

An outdoor event near the Georgian capital was canceled after several far-right attackers vandalized the stage and burned LGBTQ flags, a Pride Week organizer from Tbilisi, Mariam Kvartskelia, told reporters (Pride Week). The police did not stop them.

“The place was evacuated and no one was injured,” he added.

Organizers of Tbilisi Pride week have accused the government of complicity with violent anti-LGBTQ groups.

The attack was “pre-coordinated and agreed with the Home Office”, they said in a statement.

But the Interior Ministry assured that the far-right demonstrators “managed to avoid the police cordon and reach the venue”.

“We managed to evict the organizers” of the Pride festival in Tbilisi, said Deputy Interior Minister Alexander Tarakvelitze.

Interpress reported that several attackers were arrested.

Georgian President Salome Zurapishvili, a pro-Western critic of the Tbilisi government, said he needed to ensure “the safe conduct of the Pride festival”.

“Freedom of expression and assembly are fundamental rights and their violation is unacceptable,” he said.

Opposition voices accuse the government of covertly supporting homophobic and nationalist groups, traditionally loyal to the ruling Georgian Dream party in elections, and of staging protests against pro-Western opposition parties.

In 2019, hundreds of far-right activists burned rainbow flags in Tbilisi to protest the screening of an Oscar-nominated film about homosexuality.

In 2013, thousands of ultra-conservative Orthodox Church supporters disrupted a rally marking the International Day Against Homosexuality in Tbilisi.

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On this day the participants had to board buses that were found by the police who threw stones at them, broke windows and threatened to kill them to escape the mobs that were chasing them.

The next day, thousands of Georgians signed an online petition calling for legal action against the attackers.

Georgia decriminalized homosexuality in 2000, and passed anti-discrimination laws in 2006 and 2014.

But homosexuality is more stigmatized in Georgia, where the influential Orthodox Church is waging an ideological war with pro-Western political parties over social issues.