LGBT activists in Georgia canceled a planned pride march after opponents attacked activists and journalists and the government and church spoke out against the event.
Hundreds of violent counter-demonstrators took to the streets of Tbilisi against the pride march scheduled for the evening.
At least 15 journalists were attacked by mobs in different locations, including two RFE / RL reporters, while covering the Tbilisi Pride events.
Videos showed anti-LGBT groups waving Georgian flags scaling the Tbilisi pride headquarters, tearing up the city’s pride flags and ransacking the office.
In a statement announcing the cancellation of the march, the Pride of Tbilisi accused the government and the church of emboldening a “huge wave of hatred” against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and of failing to not protect the rights of citizens.
Earlier on July 5, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said it was inappropriate to hold a pride march, arguing that it would create a confrontation and was “unacceptable to a large part of Georgian society”.
He also claimed that the “radical opposition” led by the United National Movement of exiled ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili was behind the march and sought to create “unrest”.
The Georgian Orthodox Church also called on its supporters to rally against the pride march. Videos of the crowds showed priests joining the protests.
Tbilisi pride organizers said that even if they could not go out “on a street full of violence” supported by the government and the church, they would continue to defend LGBT rights.
“We would like to make it clear to the supporters that the fight for dignity will continue, it is an indispensable process which, despite the hate groups, the Patriarchate and the resistance of the government, will not stop,” they said.
Condemning the violence, US and EU diplomatic missions in Georgia, as well as embassies from 16 other countries, issued a joint statement calling on the Georgian government to protect the constitutional right of citizens to assemble peacefully.
“We condemn today’s violent attacks on civic activists, community members and journalists, as well as the failure of government leaders and religious leaders to condemn this violence,” the joint statement said.
Rights groups have also condemned the violence and accused the government of supporting hate groups.
“Violent far-right crowds backed by the Church and emboldened by Prime Minister @GharibashviliGe’s incredibly irresponsible statement gathered in central Tbilisi to prevent the Pride March, attack journalists and enter the Pride office, ”wrote Giorgi Gogia, associate director for Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch.