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Pride Week Set, No March Planned

Tbilisi Pride, key local LGBTQ rights group, has slated the Pride Week for June 28 – July 2, which will not include the March for Dignity pride parade over the lack of safety in the face of “government-encouraged” violent groups.

“This year, there is no space for us to hold March for Dignity,” the Tbilisi Pride said on May 31. “We are still the only group that is denied the freedom of assemblies and demonstrations.”

The group recalled the “tragic experience” of the past year, when it ultimately canceled the planned pride march on July 5, 2021, over a lack of security guarantees from the state during a violent counterprotest.

The Tbilisi Pride argued that the homophobic pogroms “uncovered a stagnant, violent, and uncompassionate system which refuses to protect the rights of its citizens and excludes LGBTQ people from public space and public life.”

“We are still facing a government which encourages violent groups chasing people in the streets, does not punish those responsible for organizing violence, and does not acknowledge the equality of all citizens,” the statement stressed.

The organization noted that the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning) community continues to face severe problems such as lack of access to education, employment, healthcare, and housing, among others, but added “we believe that we will change this reality with our vigorous fight and unconditional solidarity toward each other.” 

The group stressed that while those against them try to present the Georgian population as being against the LGBTQ community, recent trends reveal that acceptance of the group is increasing and that this gives them hope that their “fight has a point.”

The Pride Week will consist of three primary events, the screening of a new Georgian movie about “homophobia, fight, and survival,” a regional conference that will bring together LGBTQ activists from Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Belarus, as well as a “grand Pride Festival” which will draw local and international artists.

Click for Background on the July 5 Homophobic Pogroms

Ahead of the planned July 5, 2021, Pride March, Georgian far-right group and TV network Alt-Info had called for supporters to rally against the LGBT rights demonstration, while the Georgian Orthodox Church organized prayer in front of the Kashveti Church, on Rustaveli Avenue.

The situation became tense in the morning on July 5, as far-right crowds gathered on Rustaveli avenue violently dismantled anti-government protest tents outside the Parliament.

Then a series of violent events ensued as the anti-gay crowds began to attack journalists covering the counterprotest.

The hate groups also stormed the office of Tbilisi Pride and attempted to break into the office of the Shame Movement, the organizers of the Pride March. TV Pirveli cameraman Lekso Lashkarava was brutally assaulted when covering the attack on the Shame Movement office, and he died six days later. While the authorities have published excerpts from the autopsy claiming he died of drug overdose, Lashkarava’s family, friends and colleagues do not trust the forensics.

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili had argued ahead of the turmoil that holding the Pride March on Rustaveli Avenue would be unreasonable and had claimed that “radical opposition” was behind Tbilisi Pride.

On July 6, opposition, activists and Tbilisi Pride held a silent rally in protest of the previous day’s violence. The demonstration was again met with a violent counterprotest.

As things stand, over the July 5-6 developments, the Tbilisi City Court has sent 26 people to prison and fined one person for attacking journalists, and imprisoned one more for attacking an ordinary journalists.

The 28 persons were among the 31 detained in total over the violence. Three others, who stand accused of ransacking the Tbilisi Pride Office are currently free on bail, awaiting verdict.

The Georgian Government continues to face domestic and international criticism over the July 2021 developments, as law enforcers have yet to identify and press charges against the organizers of the mass violence some nine months later.

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