Despite Georgian prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili’s assurances that citizens would be protected at a pro-LGBT rally in Tbilisi, gay rights activists were forced to flee after thousands broke through police barricades on Friday.
Holding banners that said “Stop Homosexual Propaganda in Georgia!” and “Not in our city!” demonstrators overwhelmed the group of 50 pro-gay attendees rallying to raise awareness on the official international day against homophobia.
Police were forced to escort the gay rights demonstrators onto buses, driving them away from the violence.
Several people, including a few journalists, received minor injuries according to Georgian media.
“We won’t allow these sick people to hold gay parades in our country,” said Zhuzhuna Tavadze to the Chicago Tribune. “It’s against our traditions and morals.”
Later, crowds could be seen shouting at people they thought might by gay in the streets.
“[Gay rights demonstrators] should have the right to express their views and to hold demonstrations,” said Nino Bolkvadze, a lawyer of the Identity non-governmental organization.
Earlier this week, Ivanishvili said sexual minorities in his country “have the same rights as any other social groups.”
Though there are certain groups in his country that do not accept sexual minorities, society will “gradually get used to it,” he said.
On Thursday, the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Ilia II, urged authorities to stop the gay rights rally. He said it was “a violation of the majority’s right” and “an insult” to Georgian traditions.