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May 17, 2018 in Georgia


Natia Gogolashvili

On May 17, the world marks the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia. The main goal of the May 17 events is to raise awareness about the violence, discrimination and repression against LGBT society worldwide. The day was established in 2004. One-year-long campaign finished on May 17 2005 with the celebration of the first International Day against Homophobia. The day has been marked in Georgia for four years already. On May 17, one more day was also established in Georgia – in 2014 the Patriarch of Georgia established the May 17 to be the day of Family Purity. 

Celebration of the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia has been always followed with incidents in Georgia; neither this year was an exception. On May 16, in order to avoid expected violence, majority of LGBT activists cancelled planned demonstrations. They disseminated a statement:

„During this year we’ve had several meetings with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and they declared their readiness to guarantee our safety. However, we haven’t failed to notice recent political events and social tension following Tbilisi nightclub raids. As we all know, for this year’s 17th of May, opposing groups have mobilized their powers, these groups include the Patriarchate of Georgia and fascist groups that, according to reasonable claims, are linked to intelligence agencies of Georgia’s political enemy – Russian Federation,” the statement reads.

Regardless this statement, small part of LGBT activists gathered in front of the Government’s Chancellery at 19:00. 

“We are aware that there are no guarantees of safety, there is illusion in this state, which we still cannot call the state until the rights of each citizen are protected. There is no trust towards the authority; they are loyal towards the fascist groups. [The authority] funds some of them or cannot control source of their funding,” LGBT activist Nino Bolkvadze said.
Dozens of law enforcement officers were mobilized near the chancellery.

Director of the MIA human rights department Londa Toloraia said at the briefing on May 16 that on May 17 they will defend freedom of expression of all participants of the demonstration in front of the Government’s Chancellery. However, a small incident happened near the chancellery. An unknown person attacked one of the LGBT activists during the demonstration and physically assaulted him. As MIA reported the attacker was minor and the investigation commenced under Article 126 Part 1 of the Criminal Code of Georgia.

When LGBT activists were demonstrating in front of the chancellery, members of the March of the Georgians and clergymen gathered in nearby streets (Ingorokva street) and tried to enter the territory of the chancellery. They were aggressive and refused to communicate with journalists. 

LGTB activists planned online demonstration too: “We, LGBT community members, queer individuals and their supporters, will start online action at 19:00! If we are deprived of the right to physically go to the Parliament, we will check in at the Parliament of Georgia in online space!” the statement was disseminated in social network.

LGBT community members held actions in 6 locations in Tbilisi. They stopped at the Ministry of Justice, at the Ministry of Education, at the Ministry of Healthcare, at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and at the memorial in the Vake Park. They, in accordance to the LGBT flag, released smokes of different colors in each spot and requested the government to defend their rights.

In parallel to the LGBT activists, members of the March of the Georgians and Georgian Idea (Georgian Fascists) held demonstrations.

National-socialist organization Georgian National Unity marched in Rustaveli Avenue. They said they are Georgian fascists. The demonstrators said they were celebrating the Family Purity Day established by the Orthodox Church. 

Members of the March of the Georgians gathered near the Parliament. “This action will gather friends to hug each other… we will gather, walk and see what kind of people will go there. If they will be aggressive we will surrender once, twice and even third times,” one of the leaders of the March of the Georgians Gia Korkotashvili said. 

Despite this statement, during the day the patrol police arrested several dozen members of the March of the Georgians – among them were Gia Korkotashvili, Giorgi Gabedava, Guram Palavandishvili and others. Police blamed part of them in the violation of the administrative law but took others to police unit just for the interrogation. Part of the detainees were released by the end of the day, among them was Gia Korkotashvili, who was in police for questioning. 

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