The Ministry of Interior said it launched an inquest into Levan Vasadze’s statement during June 16 rally, where he announced formation of the vigilante patrols against “gay propaganda”.
This is the latest development following the tense confrontation of the hate groups with LGBTQI activists in front of the Government’s Administration on June 14. The crisis ensued after queer activists and their supporters gathered to call for government’s protection, following the strongly worded statement of the Georgian Orthodox Church against Tbilisi Pride events.
“Ensuring public order is the lawful function of the Ministry of Interior only. Any attempt to substitute for the policing functions will be immediately curbed. The Ministry will give adequate response to each fact of violence, disobedience to police and other offenses,” the Interior Ministry stated.
Speaking to reporters, Deputy Interior Minister Natia Mezvrishvili noted that the Interior Ministry would strictly respond to any cases of attacks against police officers. “Nobody will be able to break through the police cordons, to use force against police officers and if any such case takes place, this is a criminal offense and the police will respond to it,” she added.
“Men only” rally for “morality” in Vera Park
On July 16 Vasadze gathered his supporters, making good on his promise to unveil the concrete plan of action against Tbilisi Pride and to “overwhelm” the police protection of the queer activists.
Who is Levan Vasadze?
Levan Vasadze, often referred to as “businessmen” has been an exotic but persistent presence in Georgia’s nativist fringe. Having spent early 1990s in the United States, where he graduated with MBA at the Emory University in 1995, he seems to have made a radical turn after his graduation, in Moscow, Russia. Here, he is mainly reported to have worked as “a businessmen”, but also studied in 2006-2007 at Moscow St. Tikhon Humanitarian University – the life of the apostles and theology.
In Georgia he ran two companies – “Bagrationi 1882” known for its sparkling wines, and “Samoseli Pirveli” – a clothes brand trying to revive and upgrade Georgia’s traditional clothing.
Back in Georgia since 2009, he has been publishing regularly, mixing nativist, Christian mystical and messianic messages. He has been called “one of the chief ideologues of Georgian nativistm“.
Vasadze is a founder and board member of a conservative school, as well as “Georgia’s Demographic Revival Foundation”, which forms the part of ultra-conservative World Congress of Families (WCF), which was added to the
list of organizations designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as anti-LGBT hate groups in February 2014 for its involvement with the 2013 Russian LGBT propaganda law and opposing LGBT rights internationally.
Vasadze is also known to enjoy friendly relations with Alexander Dugin, Russian Eurasianist ideologue with links to WCF.
The rally was attended by the assortment of radical, nativist and hate groups. Among the participants were MP Emzar Kvitsiani of the Alliance of Patriots, Guram Palavandishvili, founder of the Society for Children’s Rights and Dimitri Lortkipanidze of the Moscow-funded Primakov Center.
The participants claimed that they would not allow gay propaganda in the country, saying that if the government fails to “”establish order in the country, the society will do it.
“If the government does not obey people’s will, it will be declared illegitimate,” Guram Palavandishvili said.
In his address to the protesters, Levan Vasadze noted that the purpose of their gathering was to avoid unrest but to establish “peace, order, love and morality” in the country.
Vasadze said that his supporters and followers will create a “legion”, which will be in charge of “establishing order” in the capital. He also noted that the members of the legion will be “equipped with belts” to tie the hands of those persons, who try to “propagandize depravity,” and to remove them away from the public areas.
Vasadze also noted that such vigilante units will patrol the capital. He threatened that if any of the vigilantes are taken into custody, the groups will try to break police cordons and confront the police officers “with shepherd’s staffs.”
Media reported lines to inscribe into the legion during the rally. MP Kvitsiani stated he has joined up.
In a disturbing comment, Vasadze also claimed to have been informed by “security officers” that embedded agents provocateur planned to kill someone “on the other side” (meaning LGBT community) and then to pin the blame on Vasadze’s supporters.
Diplomats in Vasadze cross-hairs, too
He also slammed foreign diplomats accredited in Tbilisi, saying that “those silly ambassadors, who come out and moralize, they are not ambassadors, they are non-diplomatic provocateurs who interfere in our country’s internal affairs.”
By the end of his remarks, Vasadze addressed U.S. President Donald Trump in English, asked him for assistance in “drying up a swamp in the Tbilisi-based U.S. Embassy.”
Metropolitan Giorgi (Jamdeliani) of Marneuli and Hujabi Eparchy supported Vasadze’s calls “aimed at eradicating Sodomite movement in our country” and called on the men to join the initiative. Some other representatives of the Orthodox Church condemned Vasadze’s statements as “unchristian” and dangerous.
On June 14, the Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate issued a statement, calling Tbilisi Pride of June 18-23 “absolutely unacceptable” and a “sodomite sin”, calling on the government “not to allow” it.
In response to the Patriarchate’s statement, LGBTQI rights activists decided to gather at the Government Administration building on the same day and demand the government to protect their rights secured by the Constitution
But some of the radical groups and priests had already gathered ahead of the planned rally by LGBTQI activists, stating it as their objective to prevent the gathering from taking place. They shouted insults and threw small objects at the activists. Police cordon was deployed to prevent violence.
Two counter-rallies lasted for about seven hours amid heavy police presence. A total of 28 persons were detained during the rally.
Tbilisi Pride, uniting LGBTQ and human rights activists, plans to hold the Pride Week on June 18-23, involving various social, cultural and political events, including the Pride Parade.