Reactions to Violence Against Tbilisi Pride

On July 8, the final event of the “Pride Festival” planned near Lisi Lake was canceled due to a rally organized by radical forces.

The president, the public defender, politicians, and the diplomatic corps offer an assessment of the events. has compiled the first reactions.

President’s Statement

The President of Georgia, Salome Zurabishvili, commenting on the disruption of the Pridefest, said that “the promise given by the Constitution of Georgia has been violated in the country today. Article 17 of the Constitution that the right to express opinion would be protected for everyone, and Article 21 – freedom of assembly”.

She emphasized that the closing event of the Tbilisi Pride Week should have been held in a closed space, at the place and time planned by the organizers, which was agreed upon in advance with the law enforcement officers, who “had given a promise of protection, and therefore all necessary measures should have been taken.”

The president emphasized that protecting the event should have properly meant protecting the freedom of assembly rather than evacuating the participants. Accordingly, the statement of the law enforcement officials that security could not be guaranteed without the evacuation of the organizers creates a dangerous precedent, according to which, in the future, “any event whose form or content is disliked by any radical group will probably be disrupted…”- President said.

Salome Zurabishvili drew attention to the incitement of the counter-rally by the representatives of the ruling party and acting MPs through social media. She stated that: “In reality, by inciting these counter-rallies and not condemning these actions or hate speech, the ruling party, the majority of the Parliament, supports violence and takes responsibility for all the consequences.”

At the end of the speech, the president called on the Ministry of the Interior to prevent all violent actions and on the government team to “stop using hate speech and inciting confrontation.”

Public Defender’s Statement

The ombudsman of Georgia, Levan Ioseliani, released a statement addressing today’s events. He emphasized that the right of expression and manifestation is protected by the Constitution of Georgia, and the protection of this right is the responsibility of the state. He noted that despite the pre-existing agreement, the Ministry of Internal Affairs failed to properly protect the area and take all preventive measures, as a result of which the Pride celebration failed.

“The Public Defender calls on the Ministry of Interior to ensure the protection of the freedom of expression and assembly of all citizens, especially in a safe environment. In addition, to respond to all violations of the law in a timely and appropriate manner,” the statement reads.

Notably, in the Public Defender’s statement, there is not a single direct reference to the event being linked to the LGBT community.

Political Assessments

Remarks by the ruling party

Shalva Papuashvili, Speaker of the Parliament: “We saw that [in the Lisi area] the police was decently present. Their job is to ensure the safety of the people, and we saw that… no one was hurt, so the police did their job. As for the disruption of the event itself and the people who resisted the police, of course, we condemn all violence, and the police had an appropriate response… The fact that the event was disrupted by aggression is a problem… I know that the police were prepared because they had the information that there would be an attempt to disrupt the event… the most important fact is that the safety of the people was protected”.

Giorgi Volski, First Deputy Speaker of Parliament: “Pride week and various events, counter-rallies against it, large-scale, less large-scale, this is not unique to Georgia. But a different reality has been created in Georgia today, where violence can harm this country more than, say, France, where confrontations take place on this ground, or Poland or various European countries… The fact is that our country, Georgia, is more vulnerable”.

Mikheil Sarjveladze, Chair of the Parliamentary Committee for Human Rights and Civil Integration: “It should be clear to everyone that there may be groups in society with whom we disagree, we have different views and opinions about their lifestyle… but no one has the right to allow themselves to be violent against the other part of society, another person… I want everyone to know that of course the state will prevent any illegal act and will have a strict response. No matter how different or wrong we think other people’s thoughts are, we cannot physically attack another person because of it – that is categorically unacceptable. Therefore, of course, everyone should take this into account and approach people with different views with more restraint”.

Remarks by the opposition

Teona Akubardia, political group “Reform Group”: “Unfortunately, despite the promised statement, the Ministry of Internal Affairs did not fulfill its promise, it is not that it was unable to do it, instead it did not fulfill it, and thus, once again, we saw that “Georgian Dream” is based on ultra-radical, pro-Russian groups, its power is spread over these people”.

Party “Girchi – More freedom“: “In this country, the police protects Ivanishvili, his power and the creeping change of the country’s development vector towards Russia… No one will treat them [radical groups] as they treat the people who are fighting against Russia/Bidzina. Moreover, no one will disperse them with water, gas and truncheons… It is in the interest of the enemy to turn a blind eye to all this… We must get rid of the Russian government.”

Zurab Japaridze, Girchi-More Freedom: “Whether you agree with all of Pride’s demands or not, freedom of assembly and expression is the foundation of any free society.”

“In fact, the Pride case proved to be a good test [of that] …it has showed who has the courage to confront the darkness in the country, which is concentrated in the symbiosis of Russian Dream, patriarchy and the criminal world, and to call it by its name. This darkness has always and everywhere begun with the silencing of the weakest. If you think they will stop at Pride, you are mistaken… This is not just about Pride’s, it concerns everyone. So if you believe in something, fight for it, don’t stop and don’t be silent. Freedom can only be won through struggle!”

European Georgia: “The authorities once again refused to guarantee the basic, constitutional rights of Pride festival participants, gave them false assurances of security exposing them to the threat of physical violence by Black hundreds, and instead of repelling their own allied Putinist criminal groups, the authorities removed the festival participants from the private festival area.

The Ivanishvili regime is a Russian regime and until it is removed from the running of the country, no citizen will be safe from this kind of violence. Through the Putinists, the authorities are not fighting the freedom of this particular group, but the freedom of our country…”

Giga Bokeria, “European Georgia”: “All the countries that are much more successful than ours have people who are prone to violence… The key here is that in our case these people are fully part of Ivanishvili’s regime and are its tools… They went beyond Lake Lisi and organized this shameful, disgusting disruption there, why, because Ivanishvili’s regime needs to mislead a part of the public with this issue, or tries to do so. They are manipulating this issue against our Western, free future. This is not a problem of one group, in this case the sexual minority, or whoever organized the action [against them], it is all directed against our country, the future of all citizens and statehood”.

Party “Droa“: “As expected, the Georgian government once again failed to fulfill its constitutional obligation and refused to protect Georgian citizens from violent groups. This is not the first time and it is not surprising because these violent groups are financed, organized and encouraged with impunity by the “Georgian Dream” government. The Russian government of Georgia has once again organized a demonstration of violence. The handwriting is the same – an attack on journalists and another part of the society that is not acceptable to them”.

Elene Khoshtaria/Droa: “Thanks to all who, risking their life, fights for an idea, for the protection of human rights. And today, I mean the Pride representatives and journalists.

In reality, whether today “Pride event” or the cultural sphere, it is Russia which is fighting with us, not generally but in particular, through the [Georgian] Dream, either by attacking MacDonalds, or by other hypocrisy… I think the most important thing is that we all agreed that the of survival of all areas, people and ideas depends on the change of regime…”

Giga Lemonjava, Executive Secretary of “Droa”: “Today’s events are organized by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia and the State Security Service using their own violent and pro-Russian groups. The police escorted a group of thugs to the festival site. Everyone, including the Ministry of Internal Affairs, knew very well what the goal and task of this violent group was. The Ministry of Internal Affairs and the State Security Service are the main authors of today’s violence and events.

Diplomatic Corps Assessments

EU Delegation Georgia: “Delegation regrets cancellation of Tbilisi Pride Festival today. Disappointing to see that security and freedom of assembly could not be ensured. Those calling for violence and perpetrating violence must be brought to justice”.

US Embassy Tbilisi: “Today, Tbilisi Pride was forced to cancel its planned, closed event because an uncontrolled crowd threatening violence denied attendees their Constitutionally protected right to peacefully assemble. The Georgian authorities have a duty to protect the basic human rights of all of Georgia’s citizens. The use or threat of violence and intimidation to silence differing views is undemocratic and contrary to Georgia’s history of tolerance, compassion, and pluralism. We call on the authorities to hold accountable all those who broke the law and make clear that violence is unacceptable”.

UN Georgia: “UN condemns violence and attacks on Tbilisi Pride. We call on Georgian authorities to denounce this disturbing incident, to hold those responsible accountable & to take decisive steps to improve protection of the rights to peaceful assembly and expression for all, including LGBTQI+ persons”.

Peter Fischer, German Ambassador to Georgia: “Sad day in Tbilisi. Georgian law has been violated. Moreover, the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association is protected by article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ratified by Georgia. Full support for Tbilisi Pride”.

Petr Mikyska, Ambassador of Czech Republic to Georgia: “Shocking pictures from Tbilisi Pride. Constitutional rights, freedom of assembly violated, police unable to protect citizens. Is this a specific way to European Union? In my humble opinion, definitely not”.

Mark Clayton, Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Georgia: “Shocked and saddened to see that despite the planning & preventive measures, Tbilisi Pride festival was cancelled due to safety risks for participants. I call on authorities to ensure that all who broke law & aggressively disrupted a peaceful gathering will be brought to justice”.

Maaike van Koldam, Ambassador of the Netherlands to Georgia: “I am utterly disappointed that PrideFest could not go ahead today due to safety risks, in spite of security guarantees provided beforehand. All organizers of violence today and in the past should be fully investigated & brought to justice”.

Reactions from International Organizations

Marija Pejčinović Burić, Secretary General of the Council of Europe: “I condemn the violence that preceded and prevented Tbilisi Pride. Freedom of expression and assembly are key in a democratic society”.

Viola von Cramon, MEP: “Once again, far-right extremists violently disrupted freedom of assembly & expression in Georgia. Once again, the Georgian government and police are unwilling or unable to protect the constitutional rights of Pride participants. Either way, it is a sign of a weak state”.

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


Back to top button