The observation of the events developed around the Pride Festival on July 8, 2023 make it clear that it was not the goal of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to protect the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of assembly or expression of the LGBT+ community. Observers of the Democracy Research Institute were observing the July 8 rally throughout the day. In contrast to July 5, 2021, the Ministry of Internal Affairs ensured the mobilization of an unprecedented number of law enforcement officers and additional forces. However, the mobilization of a large number of police officers made their inaction and emphatically loyal attitude towards the organizers and demonstrators of the violent rally even more visible.
Long before the final event of the Pride Week, the Ministry of Internal Affairs was informed of the intention of far-right violent groups to disrupt the event. The Democracy Research Institute has already written about the above. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Internal Affairs gave Tbilisi Pride solid security guarantees.
On July 7, the Ministry of Internal Affairs issued a statement, saying that the closed event of Tbilisi Pride would be held in a peaceful environment and law enforcement officers would ensure security and law and order at all locations.
Despite the aforementioned guarantees, the participants in the violent rally easily broke through the police cordon near Lisi Lake and intruded the festival territory. Instead of an effective, preventive or immediate response, the police removed the festival participants from the area.
Although the organizers of the rally, at the starting location of the gathering, near the Vahza-Pshavela statue, openly declared that they would do anything to disrupt the Pride Festival, the police did not show any resistance to the demonstrators marching towards Lake Lisi. Moreover, several hundreds of law enforcement officers led the procession with a car escort. The police themselves led the leader of the Conservative Movement/Alt-Info Zura Makharadze and the founder of the violent organization Georgia First Vato Shakarashvili to the territory of the disrupted festival to convince the festival organizers to evacuate. The subsequent events, when representatives of the violent group started raiding and looting the private territory of the festival, did not lead to a prompt response of the law enforcement officers. Only 2 persons have been arrested in relation to the violent actions, based on Articles 173 and 166 of the Administrative Offences Code, which pertain to disobedience to the lawful request of the police officer and petty hooliganism.
The Democracy Research Institute believes that the events that unfolded on July 8 are a logical continuation of the Government's loyal policy towards violent groups and are directly related to the impunity of the organizers of the violent crackdown of July 5, 2021, who continue to mobilize and manage violent groups.
The Democracy Research Institute calls on the authorities to:
end the political instrumentalization of homophobia and the indirect and direct support for violent groups
ensure the immediate identification of the funders and organizers of the radical groups and implementation of legal measures against them
ensure that the organizers and participants of July 8 mass and organized violence are held legally responsible
ensure the protection of the rights and safety of LGBT+ people, including constitutionally guaranteed freedom of assembly and expression.