The Georgian Interior Ministry has vowed to take ‘all appropriate measures’ to protect Tbilisi Pride events following threats from the far-right group, Alt Info.
In a statement on Monday, they said police would ensure that ‘closed events’ organised by Tbilisi Pride would be held in a safe environment, while promising to ‘maintain the rule of law and protect the freedom of expression and assembly of each person during the [Pride] week, that will not exceed the limits guaranteed by law’.
‘The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia condemns violence of any kind and calls on the groups opposing “Pride Week” to adhere to the law’, the statement reads.
Three events are planned this week as part of Pride Week, a conference, a film screening, and a festival. Tbilisi Pride declined to organise a public march this year following last year’s violence, which was organised by Alt Info.
At a press briefing on Sunday, Tbilisi Pride co-director Mariam Kvaratskhelia asked the ministry to make a clear statement that they would take action to protect this year’s events. She also demanded that those who organised the violence against queer rights activists and journalists during last year’s Pride be arrested.
‘We demand that the government state publicly and clearly that it will protect all three Tbilisi Pride events and the safety of each participant, as well as ensure public order in the vicinity of the events and throughout the city,’ Kvaratskhelia said.
On 5 July 2021, Alt Info launched a campaign of violence to disrupt a planned pride march in Tibilisi, attacking and injuring more than 50 journalists. The police, who had repeatedly refused to provide protection, did little to prevent the carnage. The organisers of the violence have not been arrested.
[Read on OC Media: Georgia’s ongoing epidemic of homophobic street violence]
Speaking before parliament on 22 June, Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili attacked the organisers of the aborted Pride march, calling it an ‘anti-national, anti-state provocation’. He went on to claim, without evidence, that it was organised by former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.
Speaking to OC Media, Tbilisi Pride co-director Anna Subeliani said the statement from the Interior Ministry was a ‘good signal’ but insufficient.
‘It’s very important to arrest the people who organised 5 July last year and threaten to do the same again this year. So far, we know that [Far-right leaders Koka] Morgoshia and [Zurab] Makharadze were questioned today’, she added.
The far-right is preparing again
On Wednesday, the leaders of Alt Info said they would bring people to Tbilisi from the regions to disrupt the planned Pride festival.
Leaders of the group, including the chair of their political party, Zurab Makharadze, also asked for donations to cover the cost of transportation.
He published the details of accounts held in Georgia’s two largest banks Bank of Georgia and TBC.
Despite the group’s track record of violent extremism, neither bank appears to have declined to process payments.
Asked what action, if any, they would take, a spokesperson for Bank of Georgia declined to outline any specific response. They said only that they followed ‘establised rules and norms’, including ‘procedures prescribed by internal policies and by the National Bank’.
They said that in the event of misconduct by a customer, the bank would ‘act accordingly’.
TBC Bank did not respond to questions regarding their relationship with Alt Info.