Georgian extremist group Alt Info — who were largely responsible for organising the violent attacks on activists and journalists last July — has threatened events planned for this year’s Pride Week in Tbilisi.
The leader of Alt Info, Konstantine Morgoshia, made his threats in a since inaccessible post on Facebook on Tuesday.
He made the post soon after queer rights organisation Tbilisi Pride announced they would not attempt to hold a public march this year, as was planned the previous year.
The group instead plans to hold three events within a Pride Week slated for 28 June–2 July, the screening of a ‘new Georgian queer movie’, a regional conference with participants from Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Belarus, and a Pride Festival.
The group appeared to blame the lack of march on the government’s repeated refusal to protect public queer demonstrations from violent attacks.
‘The tragic experience we encountered on 5 July 2021 uncovered a stagnant, violent, and uncompassionate system which refuses to protect the rights of its citizens and excludes LGBTQ people from public spaces and public life’, the group said in a statement.
‘This year, there is no space for us to hold a March for Dignity. We are still the only group that is denied the freedom of assembly and to demonstrate.’
Despite over 50 journalists being injured during attacks largely orchestrated by Alt Info during the planned Pride march in July 2021, none of the group’s leaders have been prosecuted.
In the post threatening this year’s Pride events, Morgoshia vowed to once again ‘mobilise’ against Tbilisi Pride.
‘You won't be able to hold any grand festival in Georgia, nowhere and never’, he wrote.
‘It’s clear that you can’t hold a Pride march based on your decision […] Especially after 5 July 2021, you would not have that desire. In fact, this is our partial victory... but we are also going to mobilise from today and let’s see if you’ll be up to holding a festival by the end of June’.
Queer activists and allies were also unable this year, for the eleventh year in a row, to mark another global annual occasion publicly — on 17 May, International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia.
[Read more on OC Media: Georgia marks 17 May with Christian rally and closed queer event]
Impunity and ‘loyalty’
In a tweet on Tuesday evening, Giorgi Tabagari, a co-founder and former director of Tbilisi Pride, blamed Morgoshia’s open threats on the ‘impunity’ the group has enjoyed following the previous year’s violence.
‘Not arresting criminals last year was the mistake [Georgian Government]! Learn [from] your mistakes and arrest Alt Info people!’
Pro-Russian terrorist groups already started making threats around #TbilisiPride22.
This is the result of impunity over 5th of July events. Not arresting criminals last year was the mistake! @GovernmentGeo
Learn on your mistakes and arrest Alt Info people! #Georgia
— Giorgi Tabagari (@Tabagari) May 31, 2022
During the 5 July riots, Morgoshia was among the Alt Info leaders directing and leading violent groups to the office of the Shame Movement, a liberal group that supported Tbilisi Pride.
It was during the attack on Shame that TV Pirveli camera operator Lekso Lashkarava was attacked and severely beaten, resulting in his hospitalisation with head trauma. He was found dead at home a week later while recovering, in what the authorities said was a drug overdose.
While Morgoshia and other Alt Info leaders were questioned over their role in the violence, Georgian law enforcement bodies did not charge them with any crime, prosecuting only just over a dozen direct participants in attacks.
The group and their leaders since went on to found a political party, the Conservative Movement, and open several dozen offices throughout Georgia.
Despite calls from the rights groups and Georgian Public Defender Nino Lomjaria to prosecute leaders of the group, and some calls to outlaw the Conservative Movement as ‘anti-constitutional’, Morgoshia’s group has remained free from conflict with Georgian law enforcement.
Last week, on 24 May, Georgian watchdog group the Social Justice Centre accused investigative bodies of ‘fostering a syndrome of impunity’ due to their ‘demonstrative refusal’ to properly assess ‘violence and incitement of hatred’ by Alt Info and the Conservative Georgia.
‘Even more troubling is the fact that this exception and loyalty is linked to sharply pro-Russian, pro-Putin forces that are allowed to pursue unrestricted political and media activity despite their open support for anti-state propaganda, Russian war, and violence’, the group said.
In the wake of Russia’s war against Ukraine, Alt Info has amplified their pro-Russia positions more actively, something that has triggered greater discontent among Georgia’s overwhelmingly pro-Ukraine public.
The Conservative Movement’s newly-opened regional offices have several times been met with local backlash, with members and supporters of Alt Info not hesitating to resort to physical attacks on protesters.
[Also read on OC Media: Datablog | What do Georgians think about Tbilisi Pride?]