TBILISI, Georgia— Just before midnight on Thursday, an anti-Russian demonstration turned bloody as police forces deployed tear gas canisters and rubber bullets at a massive crowd gathered in front of the Georgian parliament. Those at the head of the demonstration tried to enter the chamber.
By dawn on Friday, ministry of interior forces had dispersed the protest. Some 240 people had been injured and more than 300 detained. Later that day Speaker of Parliament Irakli Kobakhidze resigned.
But those demonstrating in the capital of the small Black Sea country feel that his resignation is not enough. Protests are set to continue with many now demanding early parliamentary elections.
All this has come as Georgia was getting ready to hold its first Pride Parade, and with some trepidation after violent attacks on gays in years past. The timing is not entirely coincidental, and it certainly is dangerous.
Details about the march planned for this weekend were kept secret because of safety concerns, including death threats to organizers, and it was clear the Georgian Orthodox Church, along with henchmen claiming to act on the side of God, were determined to stop it with whatever means necessary.
After the brutal events of early Friday morning, the organizers of the Pride Parade postponed the march for several days saying, “We could not permit ourselves to contribute to further escalation of tensions in the country. We will not allow pro-Russian, Neo-Nazi groups to weaken Georgia’s statehood.”
Now it is not clear when or even if the parade will take place.
According to the local news site civil.ge, the organizers of Pride feel that the Georgian government “has no desire to protect the LGBTQ community against radical groups financed from Russia.” Read more via Daily Beast
JOINT STATEMENT ON TBILISI PRIDE DECISION TO POSTPONE “MARCH OF DIGNITY”
We welcome the decision by the organizers of Tbilisi Pride to postpone the “March of Dignity” planned for 22 June 2019. Participation in peaceful demonstrations of this sort is an expression of every person’s fundamental human right to freedom of expression and assembly. However, amidst real concerns about safety and security in the current context, we find the LGBTI+ community’s decision highly commendable.
At the same time, we reiterate the main points of our statement of 17 May 2019, which called upon all responsible actors to undertake concerted efforts to end the discrimination and violence experienced by LGBTI+ persons in Georgia. We welcome the policy consultations that have been undertaken in past weeks to identify and address priority needs of the LGBTI+ community. We are confident that respect for diversity yields a stronger democracy and a more resilient society.
22 June 2019
Signed by the United Nations, the European Union, Austria, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.