The organisers of the first Tbilisi Pride event in Georgia insist the event will go ahead despite a violent attack and death threats by religious bigots.
Last week, Orthodox protesters scuffled with LGBT activists who were peacefully demanding that the authorities allow the city’s Pride festival to go ahead unhindered.
Twenty-eight people were arrested for resisting police officers and for hooliganism during the incident in the Georgian capital city.
“It was a rough night for our team. We had to witness a lot of undeserved hatred and aggression,” Pride organisers wrote on Twitter.
The Pride, running from 18 to 23 June, is the first LGBT Pride week in Georgia and the South Caucasus region and will include a march in Tbilisi.
A homophobic group led by a local businessman who has close links to the Georgian Orthodox Church has threatened to form vigilante patrols to stop the march and attack queer people. The threats have led the organisers to avoid publicly announcing the exact date for the march.
On 17 June, Ministry of Internal Affairs officials met with Tbilisi Pride organisers and stated that they are unable to guarantee the safety of the Pride march in a public space.
In a statement, Tbilisi Pride remained defiant. “Despite existing risks, Tbilisi Pride will be held for the first time in the history of Georgia. The LGBT community, their supporters, family members, friends, international organisations, members of the diplomatic corps, citizens of European and neighbouring countries will take part in the march,” said the organisers
“We will take to the streets to force the state to protect human rights. Not only the LGBT community, but Georgian statehood and democracy in the country face threats…” they added.
Amnesty International called on the Georgian authorities to “publicly express support for the Tbilisi Pride march, effectively investigate the threats and plans of attack” and “immediately implement genuine and effective measures to prevent acts of violence.”
A group of 14 local civil society organisations also urged the government to investigate the threats from extremists groups and to ensure that the LGBT community can freely express itself. A petition has been launched to convince Georgia’s Prime Minister and the Interior Minister to ensure security during the Pride march.
On Thursday, Tbilisi Pride said on Twitter that the festival had hosted its first event, attended by more than 100 people; a theatre performance that took place “peacefully, without any incidents.”