Orthodox priests led a mob of anti-gay extremist in a violent confrontation with LGBT rights marchers in the Georgian capitol of Tbilisi in observance of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Georgian police, which had been charged with protecting the pro-gay march, were forced to evacuate the fifty marchers onto buses as 10,000 Orthodox Christians began pressing against police lines:
But heavy police cordons failed to contain furious anti-gay activists led by priests, who rushed to the new gay parade location. Upon breaking into the public garden, the agitated crowd engaged in a violent pursuit, beating and throwing stones at all the people who were thought to be representing and advocating for the minorities.
At least 28 people were injured in clashes, and 14 of them hospitalized, Georgian Minister of Health David Sergeenko said. A journalist suffering blunt force trauma to the head and a passer-by who had his leg broken were among the injured.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili said that LGBT people “have the same rights as any other social groups” in Georgia. When Georgian authorities announced that they would provide protection for the pro-LGBT rally after last year’s violent confrontations, Georgian Patriarch Ilya II said that the rally would be “an insult to Georgian morals” and described homosexuality as an “anomaly and illness.” According to the BBC,:
The Patriarch is by far the most respected public figure in Georgia, with approval ratings consistently at around 90%. All the anti-gay demonstrators our correspondent spoke to said the Patriarch’s comments had inspired them to attend Friday’s protest, which was organised with the help of Orthodox priests.