Protests in support of ‘the invisibles’
Several protest events were organized in the streets of Tbilisi on Sunday to express support for gays, lesbians and other sexual minorities.
This followed Saturday’s massive rallies by conservative groups, who marked the newly announced Day of Family Values, instead of International Day Against Homophobia.
The first one was called ‘Protest for invisibles and against invisibility’ and started Sunday morning, lasting until evening.
It consisted of an installation on Pushkin Square in the center of Tbilisi. Hundreds of pairs of shoes were brought and put on the square, with description and explanations on notes attached to trees.
The notes say the protest is against invisibility for those who aren’t visible and their voice is not heard; those who cannot leave their homes or are being followed and have been resettled by governments, banks, families and those who work in vain or are hungry.
“These empty shoes stand here today instead of people who a year ago on May 17 were brave enough to stand against the invisibility of a small group, the LGBT community,” the description reads.
“Those who want to be here to express concern or happiness, but either the government or the community takes care of their voice and existence.”
Another rally named ‘I am Here against Homophobia’ was a protest expressed in notes attached to different places in the capital.
Different messages were printed on pieces of paper with a rainbow symbol in the corner.
“I cannot find a reason to justify your hatred”, “89 percent of Georgia’s LGBT community have been victims of psychological pressure at least once for the last two years,” – these and other messages were written on the notes.
May 17, thousands of Orthodox priests and their supporters rallied in the streets of Tbilisi against the anti-discrimination law which parliament recently adopted. They marked the Day of Family Values, which was announced by the Patriarch.
LGBT activists didn’t conduct a rally on Friday, to avoid a repeat of the violence which took place on the same day a year ago.
Conservatives rallied against gay rights on May 17
The International Day Against Homophobia was in Georgia transformed into a day of family values, which was the initiative of the country’s most influential person, the Patriarch.
A number of rallies and events were held on May 17 against LGBT people and against the anti-discrimination law.
People marked it as a day for showing respect for parents, as the Patriarch requested a few days ago. No rallies in support of LGBT people were held on Saturday. Rallies went on without any major incidents, however there were several minor confrontations in the streets.
Orthodox priests and their followers gathered at Tbilisi Event Hall at 10:00 in the morning, bringing huge posters like “A man can never be called wife”, “May 17 is a day of family values”, “Nation against Satanism”, “homosexuality is sin and pathology.”
Many people brought their families to the rally. Priests brought holy water to bless the streets and participants at the demonstration all the way to Trinity (Sameba) Cathedral, where Patriarch Ilia II conducted a prayer. People congratulated each other with the day of family values. Eastern chants were heard during the day.
Among the demonstrators there were seen several politicians like Nino Burjanadze, Dimitry Lortkipanidze and Jondi Baghaturia. Police was mobilized in the streets.
Some Orthodox Christians launched a petition on Saturday to remove ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ from the recently adopted anti-discrimination law, as in their opinion, the law makes propaganda for ‘incorrect orientation.’ Signatures will be collected for five days.
Before the beginning of his prayer, Patriarch Ilia II said May 17 is an important day, as children respect their parents, or pay tribute and commemorate to their dead parents.
Rallies continued at the former parliament building in Tbilisi where people came to protest against the anti-discrimination law, but some of the people who addressed the rally spoke about other issues like electronic ID cards and passports, which in their opinion is ‘from Satan’ and people must have the option not to have electronic documents.
Participants at the rally criticized the government for ‘anti-statehood actions’ as they allowed the adoption of the anti-discrimination law.
During the rallies, there were several incidents, as some people thought a young guy dressed in a colored shirt might be a representative of a sexual minority. They started shouting, but the police defused the situation. Later some people attempted to block car traffic on Rustaveli Avenue and were detained for administrative violations.
In the evening, youth were involved in a verbal confrontation on Rustaveli, as one group thought a guy was a representative of a sexual minority and started shouting, but police escorted the guy to a safer place.