LGBTQ campaigners canceled the “March for Dignity” Pride event after violent protesters stormed and ransacked their offices before the march had begun.
Activists launched five days of LGBTQ Pride celebrations last Thursday and had planned a march on Monday in central Tbilisi, shrugging off criticism from the church and conservatives who said the event had no place in Georgia.
Georgia’s Interior Ministry said in a statement that activists had been warned ahead of the march that there could be violence and urged campaigners not to participate in the event “due to the scale of counter-manifestations planned by the opposing groups.”
The Ministry also said it “condemns actions motivated by violence, including any form of violence against media representatives.
“We call on citizens gathered in the streets of the capital to observe law and order, adhere to the rightful requests of the police and protest any issue within the frames of the law,” the statement said.
The Ministry said that it had launched an investigation into the destruction of property carried out at the offices of two LGBTQ campaign groups — ‘Shame Movement’ and ‘Tbilisi Pride.’
It had also launched a separate investigation into the violence against media and the “illegal interference in their professional activities.”
The Director of Tbilisi Pride, Giorgi Tabagari, told CNN that his team had to evacuate to different locations on six different occasions on Monday due to violent threats, adding that on several occasions he feared for his life.
“I faced three major incidents.. where I could have died. The experiences that we’ve had have been beyond crazy… I’m happy I’m alive,” Tabagari said.
“We had a complete failure of the state today,” he added.
Video footage posted by LGBTQ 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.
LGBTQ campaigners have condemned the violence as well as attributed blame to the country’s prime minister for using “irresponsible” language in the lead up to the event.
On Twitter, campaigner Giorgi Gogia wrote, “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.”
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili previously said he viewed the Pride march as “not reasonable” and that it would risk “civil confrontation,” according to reporting by local media outlet Civil Georgia.
Reporting contributed by Reuters.