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Georgian LGBT Activists Call Off Pride March After Violent Attacks


Anti-LGBT Protesters Attack Journalists In Tbilisi, Force Organizers To Cancel Pride Event
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LGBT campaigners in Georgia have canceled a planned Pride march after opponents attacked activists and journalists and the government and church spoke out against the event.

Hundreds of violent counterprotesters took to the streets of Tbilisi against the Pride march scheduled for the evening.

At least 50 journalists were attacked by mobs at different locations, including two RFE/RL reporters, who were denounced for spreading "anti-Georgian sentiment" and propaganda.

Videos showed anti-LGBT groups waving Georgian flags scaling the Tbilisi Pride headquarters, tearing down rainbow flags, and ransacking the office.

In a statement announcing the march had been called off, Tbilisi Pride accused the government and church of emboldening a "huge wave of hate" against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community and failing to protect citizens' rights.

RFE/RL President Jamie Fly condemned the attacks on journalists with RFE/RL's Georgian Service and other members of the press.

"There is no justification for acts of violence against journalists who are simply doing their jobs, especially in a democracy," Fly said in a statement. "We demand that the Georgian authorities thoroughly investigate these attacks and bring swift justice to those involved."

Earlier on July 5, Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili said it was inappropriate to hold a Pride march, arguing that it would create confrontation and was "unacceptable for a large segment of the Georgian society."

He also claimed that the "radical opposition" led by exiled former President Mikheil Saakashvili's United National Movement was behind the march and sought to create "unrest."

The Georgian Orthodox Church had also called on supporters to gather against the Pride march. Videos of the mobs showed some priests joining the protests.

After the march was canceled, priests chanted and people danced to Georgian folk songs in front of the parliament building.

Tbilisi Pride organizers said that although they could not go out "in a street full of violence" supported by the government and church, they would continue to advocate for LGBT rights.

"We would like to tell the supporters clearly that the fight for dignity will continue, this is an indispensable process that despite the hate groups, the Patriarchate and the government's resistance, will not stop," they said.

WATCH: Twenty people were detained on July 1 as Georgian ultranationalists attempted to disrupt a film screening at the opening of the four-day Tbilisi Pride LGBT rights festival.

Twenty Arrested As Ultranationalists Attempt To Disrupt LGBT Event In Tbilisi
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Condemning the violence, the U.S. and EU diplomatic missions in Georgia, as well as the embassies of 16 other countries, issued a joint statement calling on the Georgian government to protect people's constitutional right to gather peacefully.

"We condemn today's violent attacks on the civic activists, community members, and journalists, as well as the failure of the government leaders and religious officials to condemn this violence," the joint statement said.

Rights groups also condemned the violence and accused the government of supporting hate groups.

"Violent far-right crowds supported by Church & emboldened by incredibly irresponsible statement of PM @GharibashviliGe gathered in Tbilisi center to prevent Pride March, attacking journalists & breaking into Pride office," wrote Giorgi Gogia, the associate director for Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters

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