Live updates | Tbilisi Pride cancelled as mob violence continues

5 July 2021
A mob attacks journalists near the parliament building in Tbilisi on 5 July. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

05 Jul 2021, 22:34

Read our write up of today’s events in Tbilisi: Homophobic mob celebrates on Tbilisi streets after Pride march cancelled.

We are signing off for the evening, but stick with us for more on the aftermath as the week goes on.

05 Jul 2021, 21:28

Possible cyberattack on Georgian media organisations

Georgia’s Interior Ministry is investigating a possible cyberattack on the websites of several Georgia-based media outlets, including Publika, On.ge and the public broadcaster. 

05 Jul 2021, 21:22

Eight people arrested for administrative offences

According to a statement by the Interior Ministry, eight people have been arrested for administrative offences. 

Additionally, 55 incidents of violence have been documented, 53 of which were against media workers. The police have opened investigations into the illegal interference into journalists’ work and acts of violence, including the attacks on the offices of the Shame Movement and Tbilisi Pride. 

Another investigation has also been launched for the use of an explosive device near one NGO office — one person was reportedly injured in the explosion. The ministry said that police are investigating all incidents of violence against journalists, and that they are examining footage and photos of the incidents to identify those responsible. 

‘The Interior Ministry once again condemns actions motivated by hate, including violence against media outlets’, the statement reads.

05 Jul 2021, 21:11

Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner:   ‘a woeful illustration of threats faced by LGBTI people’

The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights,  Dunja Mijatovic, has condemned the violence against activists and journalists in Tbilisi.

‘The violence vs activists and journalists in Tbilisi Pride is a woeful illustration of repeated threats LGBTI people face in Georgia. Authorities have the human rights obligations to uphold free expression and assembly, ensure demonstrators and journalists’ safety and punish the perpetrators of attacks’, Mijatovic said.

05 Jul 2021, 20:25

Violence continues in Tbilisi

Violence at the anti-Pride demonstration outside the Georgian parliament is continuing despite the size of the protest having shrunk. The police presence remains light.

OC Media witnessed two women being mobbed by hundreds of protesters, with police eventually escorting them to safety. It is unclear why the women were attacked.

Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

05 Jul 2021, 19:37

Tbilisi Pride head says State Security Services may have been working with anti-Pride groups

The head of Tbilisi Pride, Giorgi Tabagari, has said he believes the State Security Services may have been assisting counter-protesters throughout the day.

Tabagari said on Facebook that the group had privately changed the location of the Pride March five times during the day but that anti-Pride protesters had arrived at the locations ahead of them every time.

Tabagari told OC Media that the group had not informed any outsiders of the planned location changes and that he had questions regarding how the information could have leaked.

05 Jul 2021, 19:15

Top Orthodox priest suggests outlawing ‘insulting religious and national feelings’

Reverend Shio Mujiri, the Incumbent of the Patriarchal Throne, has suggested that to avoid future violent incidents, Georgia should outlaw ‘insulting religious and national feelings’.

As Incumbent, Reverand Shio would take over as Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church until a new leader can be selected in the event that Patriarch Ilia II dies or becomes incapacitated. 

‘No matter how many times there is an attempt to hold such an event, our nation will always unite against it’, he said, while apologising for the ‘incorrect actions and misconduct’ that led to injuries.

In a statement earlier today, the Church vowed to ‘react’ to calls for violence by members of the clergy. 

05 Jul 2021, 18:32

ISFED condemns Gharibashvili’s comments

The International Society for Fair Elections And Democracy (ISFED), a Georgian democracy watchdog, has criticised Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili's comments on Tbilisi Pride, writing that his words ‘encouraged violent groups that posed a threat to the safety of dozens of journalists and activists.’

They also condemned the lack of ‘effective’ work from the police. The state, they said, failed to ensure the protection of citizens’ constitutional rights.

05 Jul 2021, 18:16

Rioni Valley Defenders face backlash after joining anti-Pride rallies in Tbilisi

Green Alternative, one of the biggest environmental watchdogs in Georgia, have announced they are stopping cooperation with the Rioni Valley Defenders, after the group showed up to anti-Pride demonstrations in Tbilisi.

The Rioni Valley Defenders is a popular grassroots group against the controversial Namakhvani hydro-power plant project in Western Georgia. 

The Defenders were actively supported by a number of queer people in Georgia despite homophobia among their followers, came under fire after condemning the Pride March that was planned for today. Activists from the Defenders also joined the anti-Pride protests in Tbilisi today, saying they were against violence but also against queer ‘propaganda’.

05 Jul 2021, 17:31

Georgian President denounces violence ‘based on gender identity’

Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili has denounced the ‘developments that unfolded today and any incident of violence, persecution because of a difference of opinion or one’s gender identity’.

She also condemned attacks on media workers and reiterated her position that everyone must be free to enjoy their constitutional rights.

05 Jul 2021, 17:28

Tbilisi Pride cofounder Tamaz Sozashvili has shared footage from inside their offices, which were broken into and ransacked earlier today.

05 Jul 2021, 17:23

Tbilisi Mayor condemns ‘shameful’ attacks

Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze, who is also one of the leaders of the ruling Georgian Dream party, has called violent incidents in Tbilisi today ‘unimaginable’.  

‘It's unacceptable to run around on streets like this… The media is untouchable even in the hottest places in the world’, Kaladze said, calling on anti-Pride protesters to allow journalists to do their job.

05 Jul 2021, 16:47

Western Embassies put out a joint statement condemning violence

Eighteen Western embassies in Georgia, as well as the EU Delegation, the EU Monitoring Mission, and the United Nations in Georgia have put out a joint statement condemning violent attacks on activists and journalists. They also criticised the ‘failure of the government leaders and religious officials’ to condemn the violence. 

They added that the perpetrators of violence ‘should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law’.

05 Jul 2021, 16:38

Tourist stabbed in Tbilisi

A tourist has been stabbed on Kosta Khetagurov Street in Tbilisi, allegedly because he was wearing an earring. 

Formula quoted an eyewitness as saying the attacker believed the victim was gay.

Police have arrested one suspect and opened an investigation into attempted murder, which carries a maximum 15-year sentence. Police are not treating the case as a hate-motivated crime.

The victim has been taken to hospital for treatment.

05 Jul 2021, 16:07

Human Rights Watch Europe director slams ‘failure of the state’

Giorgi Gogia, Associate Director for Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch, has called the cancellation of Tbilisi Pride a ‘big step backwards’ for Georgia.

‘Tbilisi Pride had to cancel today's planned March of Dignity after the state made it clear that they are not willing to provide security & ensure their safety, as violent ultra-right groups roamed the city center, attacking journalists & pride office. Big step backward! Sad’, Gogia said in a tweet.

‘Make no mistake, this is not a victory of ultra-right groups, but an utter failure of the state who condoned and tolerated the violence in Tbilisi streets today’, he continued.

05 Jul 2021, 16:02

Kobakhidze blames the UNM

Irakli Kobakhidze, the chair of Georgian Dream, has claimed that ‘the purpose of the Tbilisi Pride wasn’t to protect anyone’s rights, but had subjective political interests behind it’.

Kobakhidze said that what was happening in Tbilisi was only in the interests of the ‘radical opposition’, naming the United National Movement (UNM) party and its allies. He also claimed, without evidence, that the UNM was behind Tbilisi Pride.

05 Jul 2021, 15:57

Pirveli, Mtavari, Formula, and Palitra withdraw journalists

The heads of TV Pirveli, TV Mtavari, and Formula have made an emergency statement in which they called on the media to withdraw journalists and staff from the areas where anti-Pride protests were taking place due to ongoing attacks on journalists.

They accused the government of failing to ensure the safety of journalists.

Palitra News also announced they were temporarily withdrawing journalists from covering the protests.

05 Jul 2021, 15:52

Full statement from Tbilisi Pride 

Tbilisi Pride’s full statement on the cancellation of the ‘March of Dignity’:

‘The war declared against civil society, democratic values, and the European course of the country.’

‘The ongoing actions of the government have shown yet again that they are not willing to fulfill their direct responsibilities. The shameful, cruel, anti-state and anti-western remarks by Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili, in which he transferred blame and responsibility for the aggression on activists, is a continuation of the cruel, heinous, Russian-style politics which has been coordinated by the country’s political leadership, the Patriarchate, and pro-Russian groups. Inaction by the government has placed under real danger the health and lives of the citizens of Georgia.‘’

‘The Ministry of Internal Affairs, despite having every opportunity to ensure the safety of Pride Week participants, did not take any action to protect the fundamental rights of people. Members of Tbilisi Pride, representatives of international organisations, and foreign diplomats had a number of meetings with representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs; they knew our action strategy, they were offered specific plans, according to which the march’s security should have been protected, but instead of taking measures, we have been watching from the morning the encouragement of violent groups by government representatives.’

‘Such inactivity, and using the political power of hateful groups as a weapon, resulted in attacks on the offices of Tbilisi Pride and the Shame Movement and violence against journalists in the presence of police. This is more than interference in their professional activity, this is a hunt on the media, activists, all those people who believe in the idea of equality.’ 

‘Considering today's events, we do not expect the Ministry of Internal Affairs to adequately perform their duty as we see that they are not responding to the violence in front of their eyes; the huge wave of hate we are watching right now is inspired and supported by the government and police.’

‘We call on the international community, opposition parties, NGOs, supporters, and Georgian citizens to clearly separate from radical groups and the state’s policy of complete inactivity.’

‘On behalf of Tbilisi Pride, we would like to announce that the March of Dignity for solidarity will not be made today. Not only the government didn’t ensure the security of queer community and our supporters, but with their activities they interfered us to excercise our right of the freedom of assembly. We cannot go out in a street full of violence supported by the government, patriarchate and pro-Russian forces and risk people's lives!’

‘We would like to tell our supporters clearly that the fight for dignity will continue, this is an indispensable process, that despite the hate groups, the Patriarchate [of the Georgian Orthodox Church], and the Government’s inflated resistance, will not stop! We will definitely come out for dignity!’

05 Jul 2021, 15:50

Church calls for ‘peace and prayer’

The Georgian Orthodox Church has released a statement calling for anti-Pride protesters to be ‘peaceful and focused only on prayer’.

‘While we oppose sin that is unequivocally unacceptable to Christian teaching and protest the propagation of immorality, we pray not only for the spiritual children within our number but also, first and foremost, for those who plan to do the opposite.’

‘Christianity calls for peace and mutual love. We ask everyone to refrain from any aggressive and abusive actions, including physical and verbal confrontation, so that all this does not lead to any escalation and does not hurt our own compatriots, regardless of their different views and beliefs, profession and social status.’

05 Jul 2021, 15:20

Over 15 journalists have been attacked

Over 15 journalists have been attacked by anti-pride protesters so far in Tbilisi, according to RFE/RL. No one has been arrested yet for attacking journalists. The Interior Ministry has launched an investigation.

05 Jul 2021, 15:16

Pride march won’t happen ‘today’

Tbilisi Pride has announced that the March of Dignity will not happen ‘today’.  The group said that the government had failed to protect people’s ‘fundamental rights’.

The group said that a war had been declared ‘against civil society, democratic values, and the European course of the country’.

05 Jul 2021, 14:47

Priest drags journalist away from demonstration

TV Formula journalist Rati Tsverava was attacked by anti-pride protesters near the Kashveti Church on Rustaveli Avenue. Tsverava was dragged away in a headlock by Georgian Orthodox priests.

Image via IPN.
Image via IPN.

05 Jul 2021, 14:31

Scooter drives into journalists

Footage from Maestro shows a man driving a scooter repeatedly into a group of journalists near parliament. Another man proceeds to attack the camera operator with a club. Police did not immidiately arrest either attacker.

05 Jul 2021, 14:01

European flag missing from Parliament

The European flag that hangs alongside Georgia’s Five Cross Flag outside parliament has disappeared during the course of the morning. Thousands of anti-Pride protesters have gathered outside parliament. 

The photo on the left taken at 11:03 shows the flag still hanging. In the photo on the right, taken at 11:50, the flag has disappeared. Photos: Ismi Aghayev/Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

05 Jul 2021, 13:45

Public Defender criticise PM for ‘escalating’ the situation

Georgian Public Defender Nino Lomjaria has criticised Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili for ‘escalating’ the situation leading to attacks on journalists. She said the PM had put all responsibility over any unrests on the organisers of Pride. 

Lomjaria called on the authorities to respond to the violent incidents that were ‘threatening life and health of citizens’.

05 Jul 2021, 13:42

Rioni Defenders to attend anti-Pride rally 

Representatives from the Rioni Defenders, the umbrella group leading protests against the Namakhvani Hydropower plant in central Georgia, told journalists they are arriving in Tbilisi to attend protests against Tbilisi Pride March. 

Marita Museliani, one of the leaders of the movement, told Publika that they decided to come to Tbilisi after the Patriarchate — the ruling body of the Georgian Orthodox Church — called for people to come out. She added that they oppose violence and plan to attend a Patriarchate-organised prayer. 

'We are going to a peaceful protest as called by the Patriarchate', she said. 

05 Jul 2021, 13:38

Protesters break into Tbilisi Pride office as police watch on

A group of anti-Pride protesters have scaled the facade of the Tbilisi Pride office in Tbilisi and broken in. Police were reportedly present at the scene but did not prevent the incident.

Image via TV Formula.
Image via TV Formula.

Tbilisi Pride leader Giorgi Tabagari commented on the break-in saying: ‘Aggressive hate groups climbed on our office, which is on the third floor. took down the rainbow flag and damaged the office.’

‘We are witnessing a major state failure.’

05 Jul 2021, 13:32

Welcome to OC Media’s live updates of today’s Tbilisi Pride. 

If it goes ahead, this will be the first Pride March held in Georgia. Conservative and far-right groups have already mobilised throughout central Tbilisi in an attempt to block the march.

Earlier today, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili expressed his opposition to the march,  scheduled to be held in central Tbilisi. The Interior Ministry also called for the march not to go ahead citing security concerns. 

Meanwhile, anti-queer counter-demonstrators have attacked several journalists and smashed their equipment. 

Georgian television channels Formula, First Channel, Rustavi 2 and the online news agency Tabula reported that their journalists were violently attacked and that protesters demanded that they vacate the area near the Parliament building on Rustaveli Avenue. Small numbers of police have been trying to secure TV crews from the anti-Pride protesters, escorting some journalists out of the area using police vehicles. 

Before attacking the journalists, protesters demolished tents that had been erected by political opposition groups after the last parliamentary election. The police stood by as the tents were destroyed.