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Opposition, Activists, Tbilisi Pride Hold Silent Rally ‘for Freedom’

Several thousand opposition supporters, civic activists and ordinary citizens held silent rally outside the Parliament building on Rustaveli Avenue, the Georgian capital’s main thoroughfare, to protest yesterday’s homophobic pogroms against now-cancelled LGBT Pride March, that left over 50 journalists injured.

Right-libertarian Girchi-More Freedom party leader Zurab Japaridze of Girchi, European Georgia party, and civic activists have called on their supporters to protest against violence and for freedom of expression and assembly earlier today. Opposition parties are accusing the Georgian Dream Government of organiing and encouraging violent homophobic groups yesterday.

Tbilisi Pride activists also joined the rally “for Freedom.” Noting that “it was a hard day for Georgian democracy yesterday,” the LGBT+ activist group earlier today called on its supporters, who could not attend the cancelled pride to join the silent rally today.

“We didn’t manage to march yesterday as planned, but we brought Pride spirit in front of the parliament today! Violence won’t prevail Georgia!,” tweeted Giorgi Tabagari, Tbilisi Pride organizer. 

In parallel to the anti-violence rally, various homophobic groups, including Guram Palavandishvili, founder of the Society for Children’s Rights, and his supporters, as well as priests have gathered nearby the Parliament, outside the National Gallery for a counter-protest. The far-right protesters, mainly young men, were also gathered on the other side of the Parliament, near the Youth Palace.

Tensions mounted multiple times as homophobic crowds kept trying to break police lines and were throwing stones, glass and stone-filled plastic bottles, petards, and small metal rods, among others, against anti-violence, pro-LGBT+ rally.

The Patriarchate of the Georgian Orthodox Church called “for peace,” and deemed verbal and physical attacks as “unacceptable.”

According to media reports several police officers sustained injuries. Police called on both protest leaders to refrain from calls for violence and to avoid violent actions.

Throughout the course of the events, police arrested dozens of violent far-right protesters. But it was not immediately clear whether they were simply removed from the area or taken to police stations. The Ministry of Interior has yet to publish data on arrests.

By 23:30, the ‘for freedom’ silent rally participants were largely gone, as police at around 23:45 allowed far-right groups claim the protest scene outside the Parliament. Within minutes, the homophbic protesters took down and burnt the European flag at the Parliament, while police, despite being present in the area, did not prevent the move.

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NB: This article was updated at 01:35AM, July 7. Counterdemonstration details, Tbilisi Pride, Police and Patriarchate comments, among others, were added. 

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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