June 14, 2019 demonstration monitoring results held in front of the State Chancellery

On June 14, 2019, organizers of the ,,Tbilisi Pride’’ announced the demonstration “Where are you the state?” to be held in front of the State Chancellery building. The demonstrates intended to protest the statement made earlier that day by Georgian Patriarchate, calling upon the state authorities not to allow a planned LGBT+ demonstration to go ahead in Tbilisi. Activists requested from the leading legislative and executive public officials, to make a public statement on Tbilisi Pride events. The demonstration was planned in front of the State Chancellery at 19:00.

On announced time, activists were met with approximately three hundred homophobic ultranationalist right-wing groups and their leaders near the State Chancellery building. A counter-demonstration was organized by Guram Phalavandishvili, Levan Vasadze and Zviad Tomaradze. Leaders of other ultranationalist right-wing groups including Dimitri Lortkiphanidze, Levan Chachua and Aleksander Falavandishvili joined the counter-demonstration.

The far-right activists were especially aggressive towards the LGBT+ community. Around 10 people participated in “Tbilisi Pride” supporters’ demonstration. On a couple of occasions, counter-demonstrators threw the ball, eggs and water bottles to the demonstrators.

The Police had to separate LGBT+ rights activists from counter-demonstrators immediately after the beginning of the demonstration and they had to remain on the stairs of the State Chancellery, surrounded by a police cord throughout the demonstration. Also, at the initial stage of the event the police force was a bit confused and was unable to identify the demonstrators and have an immediate response on several violations including throwing the ball and breaking the journalist’s phone by the counter-demonstration activist.

Journalists of ,,Liberali’’, ,,TV Pirveli’’ and ,,Netgzeti’’ were verbally and physically assaulted during the counter-demonstration. The Deputy Public Ombudsmen of Georgia was also the subject of threats and verbal abuse. At the end of the demonstration, several counter-demonstrators were arrested for the threat of physical destruction of civil activist Nata Pheradze. The police arrested 28 members of counter-demonstration, including Alexandre Phalavandishvili, the son of Guram Phalavandishvili, for disobedience to the police and petty hooliganism.

The members of the counter-demonstration were frequently using violent, homophobic and hate speech. As monitors of the Democracy Research Institute (DRI) observed, incitement to violence was used not only by the members of the counter-demonstration, but by their leaders as well. “We are going to stay here until they leave and we might even dismiss this demonstration ourselves” – said Levan Phalavandishvili, one of the organisers of counter-demonstration. Levan Vasadze called the demonstration “feast of depravity” and emphasized, that he would not let ,,Tbilisi Pride’’ happen in any form.

Anti-Western, Anti-American and Pro-Russian messages were made during counter-demonstration. “No matter how many ambassadors interfere in our country’s internal affairs or no matter how strong the pressure to our society is, we will not let depravity propagandists to celebrate Anti-Caucasian and Anti-traditional way of living” - stated Levan Vasadze, one of the organizers of counter-demonstration claiming that the Georgian Patriarchate was under pressure from one of the Western embassies to support LGBT+ pride. Another leader – Dimitri Lortkiphanidze actively announced permanent demonstrations in front of the Embassies of the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

Similar statements were used by organizers and by clergymen attending the counter-demonstration. Father David Isakadze stated that ,,Georgians hate the West which legalises this kind of depravity and that’s why they love Russia.’’

Democracy Research Institute will monitor the progress and results of the investigation by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, including the legal proceedings in the Court. The effective legal response to June 14 developments is important for further prevention of such actions.

In addition, the Democracy Research Institute believes that the relevant authorities of the Georgian Government, in the first place the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, despite the May 31 statement should take the responsibility to ensure Tbilisi Pride to go ahead safely.