LGBT+ campaigners in Georgia call off pride march after office attack

Activists launched five days of LGBT+ Pride celebrations last Thursday and had planned a “March for Dignity” on Monday in central Tbilisi, shrugging off criticism from the church and conservatives who said the event had no place in Georgia.

The march plan was disrupted on Monday by counter protesters before it could begin.

Video footage posted by LGBT+ activists showed their opponents scaling their building to reach their balcony where they tore down rainbow flags and were seen entering the office of Tbilisi Pride.

Other footage showed a journalist with a bloodied mouth and nose and a man on a scooter driving at journalists in the street.

Campaigners said some of their equipment had been broken in the attack and that they had been forced to cancel.

Anti-LGBT protesters burn a rainbow banner as they take part in a rally ahead of the march on Monday.

“No words can explain my emotions and thoughts right now. This is my working space, my home, my family today. Left alone in the face of gross violence,” Tamaz Sozashvili, one LGBT activist, tweeted.

The interior ministry urged activists to abandon their march for security reasons. It said in a statement that various groups were gathering and protesting on Monday and that journalists had been targeted with violence.

“We once again publicly call on the participants of ‘Tbilisi Pride’ to refrain from the ‘March of Dignity’ … due to the scale of counter-manifestations planned by opposing groups…” it said.

In the run-up, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said he viewed the march as “not reasonable,” saying it risked causing public confrontation and that it was not acceptable to most Georgians, the Civil Georgia media outlet reported.

Rights campaigners condemned the violence and accused Garibashvili of emboldening hate groups.

“Violent far-right crowds supported by (the) Church & emboldened by (an) incredibly irresponsible statement of PM @GharibashviliGe gathered in Tbilisi center to prevent Pride March, attacking journalists & breaking into Pride office,” wrote Giorgi Gogia, who works for US-based Human Rights Watch.

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