LGBT Hate Watch: Dispatch from Republic of Georgia

As we here in America are experiencing a kind of groundswell for LGBT rights, it is interesting to note that an event on Friday that was designed to be a peaceful awareness campaign about violence against LGBT people in the Republic of Georgia was met with hundreds of violent protestors.

See for yourself:

The event had about 50 LGBT people — a brave thing to do in a country in which there are absolutely no protections — who were going to ride down the streets in an attempt to highlight violence. This was not an event that was trying to seek LGBT rights in the same sense that we might have here, mind you. Just an event to highlight violence. (The prime minister has said that violence against any Georgian is wrong, but not necessarily endorsing LGBT people.)

But the Georgian Orthodox Church mobilized hundreds, possibly thousands to counter-protest the event. People were hurling plants at the bus, because as one woman said, “[It is] to punish those who violate the values of Orthodox Christianity.” 28 people were injured, including two journalists.

On Saturday, LGBT activists mobilized and held a peaceful protest outside the Tbilisi government offices to highlight the previous day’s incident. Participants rallied for accountability and that guilty parties be brought to justice. Thankfully, while there was a counter-protest, the events on Saturday remained passionate but peaceful. Meanwhile, Amnesty International condemned the ineffectual police response in controlling the escalating violence.

It is an interesting reminder to me that these freedoms we are fighting for, sadly, do not come easy. And that there is a long continuum of where people are on the civil rights front. I am grateful that we have come as far as we have in our country. And I pray that those in other countries can find peace and equality.

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