Police have arrested 26 far-right hardliners, including several Kremlin-friendly Alt-Info group leaders, late on July 1, as they mobilized against Tbilisi Pride’s upcoming queer music festival.
The Ministry of Interior said arrests were made under the Code of Administrative Offenses, involving disorderly conduct and non-compliance with lawful police orders (Articles 166, 173). Police said homophobic groups paralyzed the roads to the festival site, and caused artificial traffic jams, despite police demands.
This year, LGBT+ rights group Tbilisi Pride is holding the Pride Week events indoors, as it refrains from holding public march over the lack of safety guarantees. The week will be concluded tonight with the music festival at uphill Mtatsminda Park. Police today pledged to protect the indoor event.
To disrupt the festival, Russia-leaning Alt-Info group, which registered as a political party last November, is now mobilizing outside the Parliament building on Rustaveli Avenue, Tbilisi’s main thoroughfare. Interior Ministry today called on the far-right groups to observe the law, as police are seen in big numbers near the Parliament.
“The Georgian Dream is a gay propagandist party,” said Shota Martinenko, one of Alt-Info leaders at the far-right rally outside the Parliament which so far gathered a few hundred supporters. Reportedly, his brother Irakli Martinenko was among those arrested last night.
“Propaganda for debauchery is ordered from the West,” he claimed, “this is an anti-western demonstration from now on as the people were yesterday physically confronted [by police to greenlight the festival].”
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Importantly, today’s far-right mobilization by Alt-Info group comes a day before pro-EU civic activists are planning to hold a large-scale rally at the same venue to call for the government resignation. The last year, the group spearheaded violence against planned LGBT+ pride parade, which resulted in attacks against over 50 journalists. No one have been brought to justice for organizing the violence.
Some in Georgian civil society sector have expressed doubts about the intentions of arrests last night. “There is a guess that yesterday’s arrests may be aiming at radicalizing processes today so that tomorrow’s peaceful rally is prevented,” said Tamta Mikeladze from the Social Justice Center. “This would mean that the [government] is provoking a social conflict.”