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After delay, ‘Dignity March’ of Tbilisi Pride to take place on July 8

By Levan Abramishvili
Monday, July 8
Initially intended to take place on June 22 during the Tbilisi Pride Week, the ‘Dignity March’ will take place on July 8 after being delayed due to the “tense political situation” in the country, say the organizers.

The statement of the organizers says that the decision to delay the March was painful for them, they also expressed solidarity to the protesters, who have been gathering in front of the Parliament of Georgia for more than two weeks.

“We made this painful decision due to the sudden tense political situation in the country. We, as citizens of this country, expressed our solidarity towards those protesting, fairly so, against the Russian occupation and shameful visit of the Russian MP to Georgia,” reads the statement.

The organizers also expressed hope that the Government of Georgia fully realizes the responsibility it bears.

“The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia has the full resources to ensure that the Dignity March is held in a safe and peaceful environment. We hope that the Government of Georgia fully realizes the responsibility and will do everything to ensure the safety of each participant of the March,” said the organizers.

Several representatives diplomatic corps accredited in Georgia welcomed the postponement of the March, stating at the time, “participation in peaceful demonstrations of this sort is an expression of every person’s fundamental human right to freedom of expression and assembly. However, amidst real concerns about safety and security in the current context, we find the LGBTI+ community’s decision highly commendable.”

Even though it was announced that the March will take place on July 8, the exact time and location weren’t mentioned in the statement, which became a topic of speculation on social media. The lack of details on March led some to believe that the protests on Rustaveli Avenue and the March organized by Tbilisi Pride were related events.

Expert Gia Khukhashvili responded to the statement on his personal Facebook page, expressing worry that the lack of information on the whereabouts of the March will give the Government instrument to “mix the March with the protests on Rustaveli Avenue.”

“On the one hand, it is clear why the place and time of the event are not publicized. But on the other hand, the Government is given a direct instrument to mix Pride with the ongoing protest on Rustaveli. There have already been calls for the opposers of Pride to ‘fill Rustaveli.’ This is a very dirty game, and the Pride organizers are a part of it, whether they want it or not. If this is not the case, they should name the location and time. Or at least say that it’s not going to take place on Rustaveli,” says Khukhashvili.

One of the organizers of the anti-occupation protests, Giga Makarashvili tried to clarify that the rally in front of the Parliament and the Pride are unrelated.

As he told IPN, “we don’t have a connection with the ‘Dignity March’, even though I’m a supporter of Pride and I’m going to attend it. Afterwards, at 19:00, I will continue serving Georgia. These are two different rallies and nothing changes in the ongoing protests in front of the Parliament,” said Makarashvili.

As expected, far-right and radical groups responded immediately to the announcement of Tbilisi Pride. A notorious far-right figure, Guram Palavandishvili, gathered his supporters in Vake park on July 7. According to them, they plan to start gathering in Vere park on July 8, starting from 10 AM, to “break up the announced LGBT Pride. Because the time and place are unknown, we think that Vere park is the optimal place for gathering. From Vere park, all the main locations of the city are within two steps,” wrote Palavandishvili on his personal Facebook page.

Another infamous pro-Russian, far-right businessman Levan Vasadze also called on his supporters to gather in Vere park from 10 AM on July 8.

In a video address, Vasadze called upon his supporters to show up with ‘white handkerchiefs’ and belts tied to their hands “to recognize each other and be able to drag the insulters of our country with the belts.”

According to Vasadze, the March “will not happen.”

“Our goal is to break through the police cordon, if there will be one, to drag out the shameless propagandists of perversion from there,” he said.

Announced in February 2019, Tbilisi Pride week took place on June 18-23, with the announced events taking place at various locations, except for the ‘Dignity March.’

Since the announcement, the Pride week has been a subject of much controversy. Aside from the backlash from the conservative groups, the idea of carrying out the March was also criticized by a segment of the Georgian LGBTQ+ community, stating that with the increased visibility comes increased violence.

After holding meetings with the representatives of the Ministry of Interior (MIA), the organizers of Pride week said that MIA “can’t guarantee the protection of the right to gather of the LGBT community.”

On June 14, Georgian Patriarchate issued a statement, asking the Government not to allow the pride week to take place. In response to this, the Pride organizers held a demonstration in front of the Chancellery of the Government of Georgia, where several well-known conservative groups and individuals were present at the counter-protest. The events led to a confrontation between the two groups, 28 of the far-right activists were arrested, 21 of whom were released later.

After the protests in Tbilisi that started on June 20, sparked by a Russian MP giving a speech at the Parliament of Georgia, Tbilisi Pride team announced a temporary postponement of the ‘Dignity March’ that was to take place on June 22.

The 19th day of the anti-occupation protests in front of the Parliament coincides with the ‘Dignity March’ on July 8.