The first time since Georgia linked itself to Europe and raised the EU flag in front of parliament, it was demonstratively torn down by brutal forces.
March of Dignity on July 5 was conceived as the culmination of Tbilisi Pride, when the LGBTQ people and human rights supporters were supposed to enter the central avenue of Tbilisi. Instead, the place was taken over by a violent mob.
Well-organized groups instantly attacked democratic institutions, arranged a natural manhunt for journalists and cameramen, ransacked protest tents set up by parties in front of parliament to call attention to election fraud, staged “pogroms” at NGO offices, and finally tore down the EU flag in front of parliament.
Prior to the Pride March, the Prime Minister of Georgia called it “unreasonable” and asked its organizers to change the location. He also said that we should respect the centuries-old traditions of the majority of the country.
The Georgian Patriarchate – the administrative body of the Georgian Orthodox Church – which was fiercely opposed to the march, called on believers to pray at the Kashueti Cathedral, which directly overlooks Rustaveli Avenue and parliament. This is where the wave of physical confrontations began.
They are attacking democracy in Georgia, its institutions. Their ideological axis is strongly ultra-nationalist with strong religious overtones. It is sharply anti-liberal in its content, which is anti-Western and openly pro-Russian in terms of foreign vector.
On the day of pogroms, the media held a joint broadcast. Everyone was discussing what had happened. A well-known presenter asked one of the young, beaten journalists, would he give up journalism and leave the country? The journalist’s answer was ‘no’!
The next day many came to the spontaneous rally at parliament to protest the rampant violence. The hate mob appeared instantly. The police installed barriers and did much to fend off attacks by groups of aggressive men who tried to physically disrupt the rally. Then they started to hurl stones, bottles, eggs at protesters.
Some people obviously want to turn the Georgian compass 180 degrees and drag it closer to the Putinist cause, away of Brussels and Washington. Most Georgians have already made the choice, but still need a stronger tailwind.