police and priests ii - 2013-05-17

Clerics led the charge against a small LGBT demonstration in Tbilisi May 17, 2013. This year there will be no such event. (Interpressnews.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–Identoba, an organization which protects the rights of sexual minorities in Georgia, has decided to not mark the international day against homophobia May 17.

Last year, the organization announced it would organize a demonstration for the rights of LGBT people a couple of weeks before May 17.

This inspired tens of thousands of activists and followers of Orthodox clerics to gather the same day for a counter-rally which succeeded in preventing the Identoba event. There were clashes during the day resulting in injuries, also to journalists.

On Wednesday, Irakli Vacharadze, head of the organization issued a statement in the name of Identoba saying that his organization will not hold a rally on May 17. He said certain groups already discuss violent scenarios for that day, and in order to avoid it no rally will be held. As for himself, Vacharadze said he won’t be in Georgia that day.

“You cannot protect the rights of people in fifteen minutes on May 17. I do it every day of the year, including Saturdays and Sundays. So in this regards, May 17 is not a special day for me,” he added.

Vacharadze says he hasn’t heard anything about other organizations planning to hold a rally or any other event on that day yet.

After last year’s events, some people accused Identoba of having profited from the dispersal of the rally, that it was a way to receive more grants and financing from international organizations and funds.

“May 17 brings no material good for us, including grants,” Vacharadze writes. “If you really care about the rights of people, you cannot achieve anything by turning May 17 into a scandal.”

He says domestic and international media shouldn’t speculate in the rights of people.

“This will be the best for everyone. So we won’t give any interviews about May 17 to anyone as we don’t plan anything on this day,” he added.

Identoba had planned rally on May 17, 2013, which didn’t take place. Only a few tens of people planned to participate in it.

On May 17, 2013, there were hundreds of police on Rustaveli Street to control the situation, but they were overrun by thousands of anti-LGBT people who broke through the police line and attacked a bus which police was using to bring LGBT activists away from the spot.

For several weeks afterward there were incidents in the streets and different facilities where people were beaten for being assumed to be a member of a sexual minority group.