On Tuesday, hundreds protested against the Georgian government’s failure to protect Tbilisi Pride from violence
While Pride events in many countries did not go ahead this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, that’s not the reason that Tbilisi Pride was cancelled.
Planned for 5 July, in the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi Pride was cancelled at the last minute after violent counter-protesters assembled in the city centre, ultimately killing a journalist.
Members of a homophobic mob climbed onto the balcony of the office of Tbilisi Pride, tearing a rainbow flag apart and breaking the windows before ransacking the building.
Staff members of the Shame Movement, who were hosting the Pride organisers, were forced to evacuate the offices.
According to media reports, police were present in small numbers and failed to intervene effectively. Dozens of journalists who were planning to cover the Pride and became witnesses were then themselves brutally attacked by the homophobic mob.
As a result of the violence, the Interior Ministry called on Tbilisi Pride organisers to not hold the march “in an open public space” because of the “scale” of the ongoing counter-rally.
In a tweet, the organisers confirmed that the event had indeed been cancelled: “We would like to state that the #PrideMarch will not take place today. The authorities did not ensure the security of the community and our supporters. We can not go to the streets full of violent people backed by the authorities and patriarchate and put people’s lives at risk!”
Activists accused the authorities of failing to ensure that members of the LGBTI community’s right to free speech and peaceful assembly was protected. The violence was condemned by more than 20 countries in a joint statement.
On Sunday, it was reported that TV cameraman Lekso Lashkarava, one of the journalists who was attacked by the anti-gay mob, had died from his injuries.
“Instead of planning for this turn of events and providing a robust response to violence, the government deployed inadequately small numbers of policemen who were only reacting to violent attacks, rather than providing an organised protection for LGBTI activists,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
“The authorities have the nerve to put the responsibility for these homophobic attacks on Pride organisers, by urging them to cancel the event rather than offering protection. They also consistently fail in their duties by not properly investigating incidents of violence and bringing those suspected of responsibility to account,” said Krivosheev.
The following day, hundreds of LGBTI activists and allies, many waving rainbow flags, protested outside the Georgian Parliament to condemn the violence and intolerance. ILGA-Europe described the gathering as “a historic moment for the LGBTI community and their supporters” in Georgia.
Krivosheev said that the government’s failure to address homophobic violence “will only foster impunity and spread the dangerous message that such attacks will be tolerated, paving the way for further violence against LGBTI individuals, activists and organisations.”
The first planned Tbilisi Pride march in 2019 was also cancelled due to threats from Orthodox Christian protesters.