A Pride celebration in Tbilisi, Georgia was canceled after a violent mob of up to 2,000 suspected right-wing extremists attacked the celebration and forced the emergency evacuation of participants. Reutersreported organizers of the event accused authorities of colluding with extremist groups to disrupt the festivities, but police said the location of the event made it difficult to fully secure.
Participants described a chaotic scene as a large group of anti-LGBTQ+ protesters descended upon the Pride celebration held near a lake in Tbilisi on Saturday. Police appeared overwhelmed at times as they clashed with the mob who reportedly destroyed a stage and props and ransacked the event’s bar.
Alexander Darakhvelidze, the country’s deputy interior minister, told reporters protesters found a way to penetrate security and enter the event, necessitating the evacuation of celebrants.
“Nobody was harmed during the incident and police are now taking measures to stabilize the situation,” Darakhvelidze said.
Event organizer Tblisi Pride and others blamed Darakhvelidze and the Ministry of Interior saying they “once again neglected to protect us from violent far-right groups and allowed the mobs to prevent us from exercising our freedom of expression & assembly even in private settings.”
The group also said they believed the violence was the “result of prior and pre-arranged coordination and orchestration between the gov't and Russia-affiliated far-right group Alt-Info.”
Mariam Kvaratskhelia, the director of Tblisi Pride, told Reuters the police and interior ministry knew of active threats against the group and the festivities, but deliberately failed to investigate or provide adequate protection for the event.
“I definitely think this (disruption) was a preplanned, coordinated action between the government and the radical groups,” Kvaratskhelia said. “We think this operation was planned in order to sabotage the EU candidacy of Georgia.”