LGBT+ campaigners hold scaled-down Pride march in Georgia despite threats

by Sonia Elks | @SoniaElks | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 8 July 2019 17:34 GMT

ARCHIVE PHOTO: LGBT activist attends a rally against Homophobia and Transphobia in Tbilisi, Georgia, May 17, 2017. REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili

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The march was initially planned for several weeks ago but was cancelled at the eleventh hour after a wave of political unrest led to violent clashes between police and protesters

By Sonia Elks

LONDON, July 8 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A small group of LGBT+ campaigners held a Pride rally in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi on Monday, weeks after they were forced to call off a march following a wave of political unrest.

Organisers said several dozen campaigners held a half-hour gathering in front of the ministry of internal affairs after being forced to change plans due to fear of reprisals from the far right.

"Visibility is important," co-organiser Giorgi Tabagari told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by telephone from Georgia.

"What this Pride has done in the past four months has been very significant and it will change the whole discourse about LGBT+ rights in this country."

The march was initially planned for several weeks ago but was cancelled at the eleventh hour after a wave of political unrest led to violent clashes between police and protesters.

Organisers had also faced threats from extreme right-wing groups and opposition from the influential Orthodox Church, while the government had warned against the march going ahead, saying participants' safety could not be guaranteed.

They had vowed to reschedule, but Tabagari said they were once again forced to change their plans at the last minute after details of the new event leaked to media yesterday, putting them at risk from counter-protests.

He said while leaving the event their car had been chased for several blocks by another vehicle.

"There would probably be many more people going in the normal circumstances if we didn't have the counter-demonstrations happening," he said.

"It changed a lot in terms of (the) amount of people who went out, but it didn't change the messages we had to say and it didn't change the spirit and it didn't change the visibility."

The Caucasian nation has witnessed a cultural clash between liberal forces and religious conservatives over the past decade as it has modernised and introduced radical reforms.

The influential Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate had urged the government to ban the rally, describing it as an unacceptable provocation aimed at promoting "the sin of Sodom", while far-right groups threatened to form vigilante units to stop it.

(Reporting by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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