Despite several delays, Tbilisi hosted its very first impromptu Pride march yesterday (8 July) in the capital of Georgia.
The official parade, scheduled for the day, was called off for the second time in less than a month. Nonetheless, local LGBTI activists didn’t lose hope.
Not only did they fly a drone carrying a rainbow flag, but they also organized an unofficial protest.
‘A far-right group would be waiting for us’
‘We had to postpone the march until the situation would calm down and it would be safe to go ahead. Although “safe” is a relative word,’ organizer Giorgi Tabagari told GSN.
‘We wanted a more or less stable situation.’
He then explained the reasons why Pride couldn’t go ahead.
‘We didn’t get any response from the minister on our security request. So we went public with the information about doing the parade on 8 July.
‘It was cancelled because the event location got leaked and far-right groups knew where we were planning to have a march. They would be waiting for us there.’
The first-ever Tbilisi Pride only included a handful of trusted people.
‘We couldn’t communicate with everyone who registered for the event. We didn’t want any other info to be leaked,’ also explained Tabagari.
As for next year’s Pride, Tabagari hopes it ‘will be bigger and different’.
‘We have a different platform now and much more visibility and support,’ he added.
About 40 activists and supporters of non-governmental organization Tbilisi Pride gathered outside the Interior Ministry calling for the Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia’s resignation.
‘After 8 months of tireless work, we have officially closed the chapter of #TbilisiPride’19. Next year it’s going to be bigger and we are going to be even stronger,’ Giorgi Tabagari tweeted.
First Ever Impromptu Pride Parade Held in Tbilisi. After 8 months of tireless work, we have officially closed the chapter of #TbilisiPride'19. Next year it's going to be bigger and we are going to be even stronger! https://t.co/2ztJTzaaVW #Georgia #EaP #EU #Caucasus #Equality
— Giorgi Tabagari (@Tabagari) July 9, 2019
‘Like everything worthy, it took enormous courage and resistance – but it is happening. Georgia’s first #TbilisiPride takes place in front of the MIA’s glassy building, and of course, women are at its frontline. @Tabagari thank you for your fight,’ journalist Nana Sajaia tweeted.
Like everything worthy, it took enormous courage and resistance – but it is happening. Georgia’s first #TbilisiPride takes place in front of the MIA’s glassy building, and of course, women are at its frontline. @Tabagari thank you for your fight! pic.twitter.com/Tit146FRju
— Nana Sajaia (@NanaSajaia) July 8, 2019
On the day, a far-right group called Alpha Dominant had organized a counterprotest to express their outrage at Tbilisi Pride.
Postponing Tbilisi Pride
Prior to yesterday’s event, the march was due to take place on 22 June. However, threats from extreme right-wing groups and fierce opposition from the influential Orthodox Church made it difficult to go ahead.
Organizers had to postpone the march after police used tear gas and fired rubber bullets to stop crowds protesting the visit of a Russian lawmaker.
Tbilisi Pride offices were attacked
Ahead of the city’s parade, hate groups attacked the LGBTI activists’ offices resulting in a police evacuation on 19 June.
According to Pride organizers, Orthodox Christian groups gathered outside the office to condemn what they call a ‘provocation.’
‘We are living in a homophobic country where societal attitudes are not welcoming or inclusive,’ Tabagari told GSN ahead of the event.
Georgia, however, has pretty good policies regarding LGBTI people, including outlawing hate crimes and having anti-discrimination laws.
It sits about in the middle of ILGA’s (International LGBTI Association) Rainbow Europe ranking, which is a pretty good feat considering some of its closest neighbors – Azerbaijan, Iran, and Russian regions including Chechnya – regularly persecute LGBTI people.