Protesters shut down LGBTQ festival in Georgia

Lazy eyes listen


After thousands of anti-LGBTQ protesters invaded the festival grounds outside the capital city on Saturday, Georgia’s Tbilisi Pride event was abruptly canceled and attendees were evacuated by police.

Thousands of conservative demonstrators marched through Tbilisi’s streets and eventually descended on the outdoor event, tearing up the stage and setting fire to rainbow flags despite various police cordons in their path.

While organizers acknowledged that “nobody was hurt,” they claimed on Twitter that they were “compelled” to cancel because the government “neglected to protect us from violent far-right groups and allowed mobs to prevent us from exercising our freedom of expression and assembly.”

They stated that the incident was “pre-coordinated and agreed upon between the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the violent group Alt-Info,” referring to a far-right movement with ties to the Georgian Orthodox Church.

The allegation was rejected by Deputy Interior Minister Alexander Darakhvelidze, who claimed that the authorities were “unable to provide protection” for the event venue due to the difficulty of monitoring a closed festival situated “in an open territory.”

“The protesters found… ways to enter the event area, but we were able to evacuate the Pride participants and organizers,” the minister told reporters after the incident, boasting that “nobody was harmed during the incident and police are now taking measures to stabilize the situation.”

According to the Interpress news agency, some demonstrators were arrested. While the speaker of Georgia’s Parliament, Shalva Papuashvili, praised the police for their “appropriate response,” President Salome Zurabishvili denounced these sentiments as meaningless posturing, accusing the government of “using hate speech and inciting confrontation.”

In a tweet on Saturday, the US Embassy in Tbilisi asked the Georgian authorities to “hold accountable all those who broke the law and make it clear that violence is unacceptable.” The UK ambassador to Georgia, Mark Clayton, shared Washington’s concerns, urging the government to “ensure that all who broke the law & aggressively disrupted a peaceful gathering will be brought to justice.”

The diplomats’ scathing tweets appeared to be a warning to Georgia that its application to join the EU was not guaranteed. Following a similar incident in 2021, in which dozens of journalists were injured during an Alt-Info counter-protest outside a Pride event, Brussels’ mission to Georgia condemned the “direct attacks on Georgia’s democratic and pro-European aspirations” in a letter to its host government, and the bloc cast doubt on Georgia’s human rights record in an evaluation of its EU application last year.