Two parallel rallies of anti-occupation activists on one hand and anti-LGBT hate group on the other, which were divided by police cordon on Rustaveli Avenue in central Tbilisi, lasted till sunrise without any serious confrontations.
Peaceful protesters, who gathered on Rustaveli Avenue for the nineteenth day, again calling for Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia to resign over police brutality when disbanding the rally during the night of 20-21 June, were confronted by hate groups, who occupied the venue in front of the Parliament earlier that morning.
Although the initial purpose of anti-LGBT hate groups, led, among others, by the self-styled “knight” and a businessman Levan Vasadze, was to counter activists of Tbilisi Pride, who had announced to hold the Pride March, they stayed on Tbilisi’s main thoroughfare calling for more of their supporters to come and join, not to let anti-occupation protesters overtake the place.
Calling on new Parliament Speaker Archil Talakvadze to meet, they demanded to abolish anti-discrimination law and to ban “LGBT propaganda” in the country.
Meanwhile, up to 40 activists and supporters of Tbilisi Pride held the first ever impromptu march in front of the Interior Ministry on evening of July 8, also demanding Gakharia’s resignation.
Reiterating once again that their only enemy is Russia, the anti-occupation protesters began marching from Freedom Square towards the Parliament building performing the national anthem, and calling on counter demonstrators to let them take the place they held for eighteen days, since June 20.
Anti-occupation protesters were denied to further advance towards the Parliament however. The police cordon in front of the Youth Palace served as a dividing line between the opposing groups.
One of the organizers of Tbilisi Protests, Shota Dighmelashvili said although some of their activists stay in front of the Parliament of Georgia in the middle of the counter rally, the rest of protesters, who could not join them, will stay on the other side of the police cordon and continue peaceful protest “till the end.”
Interior Ministry statement
The Interior Ministry called on the protesters earlier “to preserve the safe distance,” otherwise, “if they do not obey, it will be their responsibility.”
Tbilisi patrol police representative Vazha Siradze said “no confrontation should take place” between the counter demonstrators. Siradze tried to negotiate with anti-occupation rally organizers before they began marching towards the Parliament building.
Saying that every person from both rallies “has the right to express protest in a peaceful manner”, Siradze stressed the police cannot restrict anyone from exercising this right.
Public Defender statement
The Public defender Nino Lomjaria released a statement yesterday, calling on the demonstrators to avoid violence or other illegal actions, and to ensure that both protest rallies are held in “an unhindered and calm environment.”
Lomjaria also called on the Interior Ministry to ensure that all the demonstrators could exercise their right to peaceful assembly and expression.