Georgia’s Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishili has condemned violence against a peaceful LGBT rally yesterday in Tbilisi, and called for tolerance, respect, and the right to freedom of expression for all.
The peaceful demonstration was to commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, but soon after it began, a violent mob of thousands overran demonstrators, and police had to intervene to evacuate those at risk.
The IDAHOT rally was attacked by thousands of, mainly young, male, Georgians. The group attacking the rally also included priests, and women in headscarves, who burst through a police cordon, and pursued the IDAHOT rallyers.
Prime Minister Ivanishili said: “The right to gather peacefully and to freely express one’s opinion is fundamental to our democracy. Every Georgian citizen benefits fully and equally from this right. Acts of violence, discrimination and restriction of the rights of others will not be tolerated, and any perpetrators of such acts will be dealt with according to the law.”
More than 2,000 police officers were deployed in order to prevent clashes between the LGBT demonstrators, and the much larger counter protest, however they were soon overwhelmed by the several thousand anti-LGBT protesters, and special forces were brought in to transport the LGBT demonstrators away in municipal busses.
Dozens were hospitalised, as brawls went on for hours following the demonstration amidst claims by gay rights activists that the Georgian Orthodox Church fomented the violence by continually speaking out against the rally, and on the evening before, calling for the government to call of the IDAHOT rally.
Prior to the rally, Georgian Prime MInister Bidzina Ivanishvili said ”Society will get used to [homosexuality],” emphasising that LGBT people deserve equal rights to all other Georgians.