A mob of up 2,000 anti-LGBT+ protesters stormed a pride event in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi on Saturday, setting fires, scuffling with police and destroying rainbow flags.
The pride festival had to be cancelled as participants were evacuated to safety.
About 5,000 protesters marched towards the lakeside park where the event was held, according to Georgian media. Many of them waved Georgian flags and carried religious icons.
Georgia’s deputy interior minister Aleksandre Darakhvelidze said police tried to stop the demonstrators but could not hold them all back.
But event organisers accused the authorities of colluding with the demonstrators to disrupt the festival.
Mariam Kvaratskhelia told the Reuters news agency that far-right groups had publicly incited violence against LGBT+ activists in the days leading up to the pride festival and said the police and government had not investigated.
“I definitely think this [disruption] was a pre-planned, coordinated action between the government and the radical groups,” she said.
“We think this operation was planned in order to sabotage the EU candidacy of Georgia.”
Georgia hopes to join the European Union but its ruling Georgian Dream party has faced increased criticism from rights groups and the EU over its perceived drift towards authoritarianism.
The police and government did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment on Ms Kvaratskhelia’s claims.
Georgia’s President Salome Zourabichvili, a frequent critic of the government, also condemned the police, saying they had failed in their duty to uphold people’s right to assemble safely.
Nobody was injured during the incident. Mr Darakhvelidze said police were now “taking measures to stabilise the situation”.
Written by: Newsroom