Tbilisi Pride Week began on July 1 with a screening of the “March for Dignity” documentary about the LGBTQ rights struggle in Georgia, with activists, LGBTQ allies, and foreign diplomats, including British, French, German, and Israeli in attendance.
The event moved ahead as far-right and ultraconservative groups, including businessman-turned-politician Levan Vasadze affiliated counterprotesters, descended upon the opening with a disruption attempt, leading to 23 arrests as they threw eggs, plastic bottles and clashed with the police.
As the guests were arriving, some of the counterprotesters attempted to break through a police cordon. Shame Movement, which co-organizes the Week, said its activist Sopio Kuchava was assaulted and hit in the abdomen, and the attacker was then arrested, while Tbilisi Pride reported that a U.S. Embassy representative was egged. The hate groups again attempted to break through the police lines near the conclusion of the event. No reports of major injuries or hospitalizations emerged throughout the evening, however.
The Interior Ministry confirmed to Civil.ge that overall 23 arrests were made over the course of the counter-rally, under Articles 166 and 173 of the Code of Administrative Offenses, involving police disobedience and petty hooliganism. Three remain in detention, while 20 have been released on parole.
After the movie screening concluded, law enforcers escorted the guests from the premises to transport, including buses, the subway, or taxis. Tbilisi Pride organizer, Tamaz Sozashvili positively assessed the police measures, saying they were in continuous communication, and despite some minor challenges the event took place without significant incidents.
“What the [police] did was unprecedented. Most important is that the event concluded successfully,” Sozashvili told RFE/RL’s Georgian service.
The counter-rally was called by Alt-Info, a Russia-friendly online media outlet affiliated with ultraconservative movement leader Levan Vasadze. “We are gathering starting 17:00. All of you should come and bring other people. Pride will not be [allowed] to be held,” said the Alt-Info’s Telegram page.
The group has also announced plans to demonstrate against the upcoming PrideMarch for Dignity, slated for July 5.
Earlier on July 1, the Interior Ministry vowed it would take “appropriate measures” to ensure safety, order and that people would be able to enjoy their right to freedom of expression and assembly during the Pride Week launch.
Read More on Pride Week:
- President Defends Tbilisi Pride
- Diplomatic Missions Urge Gov’t to Protect Pride Activists
- Orthodox Church Speaks Out Against Pride Week
- MEPs Call on Gov’t to Protect Tbilisi Pride Activists
- GD Chair Kobakhidze Says Holding Pride Week Irresponsible