Chaotic scenes, which followed after thousands of Orthodox activists derailed plans by a small gay rights group to rally in downtown Tbilisi, continued sporadically at various locations in Tbilisi center.
About two hours after the incident started, hundreds of anti-gay activists remained on Rustaveli Avenue outside the former parliament building; other similar groups were mobilized in nearby streets. Their number dwindled after one senior Orthodox cleric called on them to move to the Holy Trinity Cathedral.
In one incident a young man and a woman were assaulted by aggressive young men close to the State Philharmonic Hall, more than one kilometer away from the former parliament building; attackers were shouting gay slurs before assaulting the two victims, who managed to find a shelter in a nearby supermarket, which was then surrounded by a large group of Orthodox activists; police arrived on the scene and still remain there.
At least twelve people, including at least three policemen, were hospitalized after sustaining injuries in separate incidents that took place on Freedom Square and its adjacent streets.
There was also an attempt to raid an office of a gay rights group, Identoba, which was one of the organizers of the anti-homophobia rally, in Tbilisi, according to the Public Defender’s Office.
Public Defender, Ucha Nanuashvili, called on the police to intervene and prevent violence. He said the demonstration by anti-gay protesters “has gone beyond limits of law” and “has grown into violence” and “the police have the right to use adequate force to react on these incidents.”
Gay rights activists were planning to gather outside the former parliament building at 1pm on May 17 to mark the International Day Against Homophobia.
But they had to change the initially announced venue of the rally after area outside the former parliament building on Rustaveli Avenue was filled by thousands of anti-gay, Orthodox activists, who were led by Orthodox priests.
A small area adjacent to Freedom Square, about three hundred meters from the former parliament building, was chosen as an alternative venue for the rally against homophobia.
After it became known that the venue was changed, participants of counter demonstration moved towards the Freedom Square.
Police failed to contain the crowd and chaotic scenes erupted.
After Orthodox activists broke through police cordon several buses were immediately deployed at the anti-homophobia rally by the police to evacuate its participants from the scene.
In one incident, which took place on a nearby street to Freedom Square, a van, which Orthodox activists claimed was carrying anti-homophobia rally participants, was attacked and its windows smashed; stones were also thrown and several persons, including one journalist and a policeman, injured.
It was not clear if anyone was arrested or not.
The Interior Ministry released a brief statement calling on people gathered in downtown Tbilisi streets to disperse.
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