The police failed on its promise to ensure the security of the Pride Festival – an open-air, private event that was scheduled to be held today, July 8 at a remote Lisi lake in the capital, Tbilisi. Despite the repeated statements of ultra-conservative groups that have partaken in violence before, that they were planning to assault the venue, the police escorted the marchers on the camp, instead of setting the roadblock and was deployed in feeble cordons that were easily overpowered and breached.
Far-right groups gathered on Vazha Phshavela Avenue this morning and made public threats to block the planned festival venue, saying only “true Georgians” would be allowed to hold a festival there.
Girogi Kardava, one of the leaders, outlined their tactics, declaring, “All three roads leading to the area will be blocked. There will be no celebration today. The Georgian people will be the guarantors of this.”
Echoing Kardava’s sentiments, another far-right leader, Martynenko affirmed, “Our plan is simple, under no circumstances will they be allowed to hold the festival… Now the roads will be closed and the area will be besieged. Whatever resistance we meet on the ground, we will respond accordingly.”
The police mobilization fell short in its efforts to effectively deter anti-LGBT demonstrators, thereby failing to ensure a safe environment for the festival to take place.
In response to the escalating situation and due to a lack of protection from law enforcement, the organizers of Tbilisi Pride were evacuated from the Pride area by the police. They also urged others to refrain from attending the Pride festival for their own safety and expressed disappointment with the Ministry of Interior’s failure to provide security for the Pride event.
Police defends its actions
According to the Ministry of the Interior, the excessive turnout at the anti-LGBT rally against the “Pride Festival” made it difficult for police to effectively manage the crowd, resulting in the evacuation of the festival’s organizers and participants.
“Tbilisi Pride” actively cooperated with the Ministry of Internal Affairs during the preparation of Pride Week and stated that the Ministry had promised them “solid security guarantees”, but failed to deliver, even though the violent groups made no secret of their intentions.
Far-right group entered the festival area, vandalizing installations, and burning and tearing down the LGBTQ+ flags and festival banners.
The leader of the “Conservative Movement” Zurab Makharadze assessed the incident as a “victory” and said: “Now the most important thing for our people is not to be arrested.”
“The victory is sealed”, – said another organizer and participant of the homophobic Rally, the founder of the “Georgia Above All” Movement Vato Shakarishvili.
(c) 2023, Civil Georgia