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Heartbroken protesters hijack government briefing to demand ‘homophobe’ Georgian PM resigns

Patrick Kelleher July 13, 2021
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Georgia protest prime minister

Journalists interrupted a press briefing in Georgia, with one branding the prime minister the country's "number one homophobe". (Twitter)

Emotional protests are continuing in Georgia after a cameraman who sustained injuries while covering anti-LGBT+ violence in Tbilisi died.

Human rights groups and LGBT+ activists have taken to streets – and to Georgia’s parliament buildings – to demand that prime minister Irakli Garibashvili resign.

On Tuesday morning (13 July), a group of journalists interrupted a government press briefing and held up pictures of Alexander Lashkarava, the TV Pirveli cameraman who was tragically found dead on Sunday (11 July).

Journalist Giorgi Kikabidze declared that Garibashvili is Georgia’s “number one homophobe” before the group ended their protest, according to Civil.ge.

The protest is just the latest in a string of protests in Georgia. Following Lashkarava’s death on Sunday, thousands of people gathered outside the country’s parliament to protest against the ruling government and to show their support for the deceased cameraman.

The Shame movement, a freedom fighter activist organisation, gave Garibashvili until 12pm on Monday to resign as prime minister as Lashkarava’s death sent shockwaves through the country.

Brawl erupts in Georgia’s parliament over cameraman’s death

After the deadline passed, members of the opposition brought the director of a TV station into parliament, allowing him to ask government officials why they had failed to put a stop to the violence that spiralled out of control over Tbilisi Pride last week.

Other journalists tried to enter Georgia’s parliament building but security turned most of them away, leading to violent scenes as some broke through the barriers.

A protest broke out inside Georgia’s parliament, with four opposition MPs seizing the speaker’s chair. The demonstration was brought to an end when the MPs were marched out of the building.

Later on Monday evening, protesters gathered outside the parliament buildings once more to express their discontent with the government following Lashkarava’s death.

The protesters subsequently moved to the offices of the country’s ruling Georgian Dream party where 12 activists were arrested after members of the crowd started hurling eggs at the building and tried to throw red paint at it.

Tbilisi Pride was cancelled at the last minute as the far-right seized the city

Georgia has been plagued by civil and political unrest ever since Tbilisi Pride was cancelled last Monday (5 July) after conservative religious forces teamed up with the far-right to unleash a torrent of violence on the city.

Shocking video footage shared on social media showed journalists being violently attacked, while one widely-shared clip showed the mob climbing onto the balcony of Tbilisi Pride’s offices and tearing down a Pride poster.

Tbilisi Pride was forced to cancel its march at the last minute as the country’s far-right continued to run rampant through the city.

More than 50 journalists covering the event were assaulted by the mob. Public outcry reached a fever pitch when Lashkarava was found dead on Sunday by his mother.

Many have pinned blame on the government and police for failing to put a stop to the violence.

Garibashvili faced a resounding backlash when he appeared to blame the country’s LGBT+ community for the outbreak of violence, saying it was “unreasonable” for them to stage a march in the first place.

“Holding of the so-called Pride march is not reasonable as it creates a threat of civil confrontation,” he said, adding that such events are “unacceptable” to Georgian society.

On Monday, as human rights groups called for his resignation, Garibashvili said 95 per cent of Georgia’s population was opposed to “propagandistic” Pride marches.

Related topics: Georgia

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