TBILISI, DFWatch–Thousands of parishioners and clerics from the Georgian Orthodox Church May 17 prevented LGBT rights activists from carrying through a peaceful rally against homophobia in downtown Tbilisi.
According to the health minister, the day ended with 28 injured. Two of them were journalists.
Even though there was no note or plan to block the roads in order to avoid incidents, the Interior Ministry closed off Rustaveli Avenue from morning. Thick police cordons were established on the streets in order not to let clerics and parishioners leave the area around parliament.
The rally against LGBT people started from early morning as parishioners gathered in front of the old parliament building holding nettles.
When asked, one of the women holding this plant explained to DF Watch that they were going to use them in order to ‘punish those who violate the values of Orthodox Christianity.’
“Homosexuality is genocide of our nation,’ ‘I cannot accept propaganda for immorality,’ ‘faggots out of Georgia,’ ‘we won’t allow Sodom Gomorra sins here,’ some of the posters read. Many of the protesters were dressed in black t-shirts, which read ‘the homeland calls on us.’
The majority of the parishioners and citizens against LGBT activists claimed they do not like gays ‘shown publicly’ and the majority of them considered today’s planned rally as some sort of ‘gay parade’, despite a number of explanations from the organizers.
“Do you like what is happening here? We should protect our children from this and this is my right. So if we talk about protection of rights, my right is to protect my children and my country from gay parades,” one of the activists told DF Watch.
LGBT activists started gathering at different spots on Pushkini Square, instead of parliament building. The plan was to held a 30 minute rally, but they were prevented from going through with it.
Soon clerics and other protesters broke through the police cordon and started running in the direction of Pushkin Square. The police tried to get the LGBT activists away from the square using buses and minibuses.
Protesters ran after the buses and attacked them. Some media outlets posted videos of how they attack and broke the windows of a minibus where gay rights activists are sitting inside.
Police wasn’t able to stop the crowd, and the cordon was finally entirely broken and the police freely allowed them to leave Rustaveli Avenue.
The Interior Ministry called on citizens to leave Rustaveli Avenue, keep the peace and respect the law; however violent incidents took place several times at different times and places in the capital during whole day.
DF Watch witnessed a man hit by a car. During the incident, which took place close to Freedom Square, the victim broke his leg, while one policeman had a slight injury to his arm, while another policeman was taken to the hospital with an injured leg.
A journalist for Radio Fortuna was also injured. She sustained an injury to her head while protesters were throwing stones.
Imedi TV reported that one foreign journalist was also injured.
In all, 28 people were injured, according to Minister of Health Davit Sergeenko. One of them is a minor, four policemen, one of whom has broken a leg. Eleven are still in hospital.
After the first clashes, different information was reported among the protesters about the location of the LGBT activists. Hundreds of people were literally running in different directions in crowds to follow after them and beat them.
The running ended near Tbilisi Event Hall. Rally participants claimed that LGBT people were hiding at a local supermarket and were expecting them to come out, but they didn’t. Finally some of the priests addressed the crowd of activists via a megaphone and called on them to go to Sameba Cathedral, the largest church in Georgia, to attend prayer and then dissolve.
The Deputy Interior Minister came to Freedom Square in order ‘to negotiate’ with rally participants, but was threatened by a cleric.
“They shouldn’t start a rally here, otherwise blood will be spilled.”
Ombudsman Ucha Nanuashvili said at a press conference that the International Day Against Homophobia was transformed into a day of “revealing homophobia in Georgia.”
He said the police wasn’t able to maintain the cordon established in the morning.
“The ombudsman considers that despite its attempt, the Interior Ministry wasn’t able to organize to take proper measures,” he said, adding that the goal of the counter rally was not a peaceful protest but physical confrontation with LGBT people.