On July 8, hundreds of counterprotesters stormed Georgia's annual LGBTQ+ Pride festival in the capital of Tbilisi, causing authorities to evacuate the event, Politico reported.
In a statement, Tbilisi Pride organizers said they had been forced to shut down the annual festivities after the authorities failed to maintain the perimeter.
Interim Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Aleksandre Darakhvelidze stated that "the pride festival was to take place in an open territory" and authorities were "unable to provide protection."
Rainbow flags were burned and right-wing activists danced to traditional Georgian folk music in the melee. Alt-Infoa far-right group that is closely aligned with the Georgian Orthodox Churchhas organized counterprotests against the annual festivities.
British Ambassador to Georgia Mark Clayton tweeted, "Shocked and saddened to see that despite the planning & preventive measures, @Tbilisipride festival was cancelled due to safety risks for participants. I call on authorities to ensure that all who broke law & aggressively disrupted a peaceful gathering will be brought to justice."
On Instagram, Tbilisi Pride stated, "Today, we saw it loud and clear, that the attack on LGBTQ+ activists and Pride Fest was a well-planned operation orchestrated jointly by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and "Alt-Info '' against human rights and democracy.
"The police financed with the taxes we pay, who were 'protecting' the festival territory, were assuring us that the far-right groups would not even come close to the site. Nevertheless, video footages spread across media and social media channels show how the police and the violent groups proceed to the festival area in an unhindered and agreed manner.
"Alt-info members surrounded us, and the police, instead of dispersing them, compelled us to leave the area with a transport that had been prepared previously.
"The statement made by the Ministry of Internal Affairs made it clear that the MIA regards this shameful 'evacuation' as a victory. In fact, this was a pre-arranged step and a proof of their inaction."
According to Deutsche Welle, Georgia President Salome Zurabishvili said the government "must ensure that the Pride festival is held in safety." She is a frequent critic of Georgia's Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and the government.