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LGBT Groups Back Namakhvani Protest, Ask Leaders to Condemn Homophobic Violence

Two key local LGBT rights groups, the Tbilisi Pride and the Equality Movement reiterated their support for the protest against Namakhvani Hydropower Plant, now held in the capital city Tbilisi, but called on the protest leaders to explicitly denounce “acts of violence” against LGBT persons by far-right individuals in attendance at the May 23-24 rallies.

“We believe the demands of protest organizers are fair,” Tbilisi Pride said in a May 24 statement, highlighting that state contract on Namakhvani HPP is “exploitative” and allows the private investor to earn profits by utilizing land, water, and other natural resources, while the populace receives ecologic, social and economic damages.

“It is extremely important for us to have the opportunity to express our solidarity and support to this cause,” said Tbilisi Pride, adding that movements fighting for fairness should “disavow these extremist, violent groups and explicitly denounce the violent acts committed by them during the rallies.” 

Another rights group, Equality Movement, hailed yesterday the protest against the controversial powerplant project as “just,” adding that they believe the protests aim to achieve common well-being, instead of polarizing the society. “We find it necessary that the rally organizers openly and publicly denounce violence against activists, disavow far-right and radical groups, and support the peaceful expression of protesters.”   

The two rights groups’ statements referred to a May 24 incident, when some far-right protesters confronted two Tbilisi-based Shame Movement activists Zuka Berdzenishvili and Salome Barker, as the latter wore a rainbow armband, threatening and forcing them to leave the rally. In another reported incident, on May 23, hate group leaders Guram and Aleksandre Palavandishvilis, influential father and son in Georgia’s nativist and far-right movements tore apart a banner by LGBT activists at the Namakhvani protest.

“These groups can discredit the protests,” Tbilisi Pride highlighted and appealed to the Rioni Valley activists to support the LGBT rights groups in demanding an “adequate response” to the incidents from the authorities.

Equality Movement also called on the law enforcement agencies to take “effective” measures to ensure avoiding escalation at the protests and hold perpetrators of the “violent” acts responsible.

Following the incidents, protest leader Varlam Goletiani said yesterday the Namakhvani activists “disavow violence” at the rallies. But he appealed to supporters not to wear or bring emblems other than state symbols to the protests, “to prevent any similar confrontations from taking place.” Some LGBT groups and allies said Goletiani complained about symbols instead of condemning the violence.

Namakhvani protesters have announced plans to march from Republic Square throughout Tbilisi today afternoon and to block traffic in certain areas of the capital.

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