President Saakashvili condemned violence that erupted after anti-gay protesters, led by Orthodox clergy, thwarted a rally against homophobia in downtown Tbilisi and suggested that government’s policies were contributing to increase in all kinds of violence in the country.
“I am extremely concerned over the violence that took place in Tbilisi center today. Violence, no matter what the motives of it might be, cannot be the image of the Georgian society,” Saakashvili said in televised comments.
“I disagree with the [opinion] that today’s violence was a result of ordinary policemen’s actions and that they should be blamed for it,” said the President, who is now in the United States.
“It is about political responsibility,” he continued. “The country has the government in order not to let increase in violence in the society; not to allow release from jails of criminals on political motives through dubious amnesties; not to allow deterioration of safety of our citizens; not to allow breaking in to the [local self-governance] administrations and kicking people out of there and carry out politically motivated violence.”
“In previous years we have achieved establishment of state institutions, which first and foremost aspire to provide peace and development to our society and if we revise these institutions and if the violence becomes part of our everyday life, regardless of motives, our society will be doomed for poverty,” he said.
He also said that such development would have negative international impact on Georgia, which “is facing huge international challenges as parts of our territory are occupied and the aggressor is internationally carry out strong propagandistic campaign against us.”
“In previous years Georgia established itself as stable, peaceful, progressive, fast developing safe country. Showing these scenes of violence to the world is significantly weakening our international positions and strengthens our enemy,” Saakashvili said.
“Georgian patriots, regardless of their views, cannot but be concerned about it. So we all – government and opposition and everyone – should sit down… and agree to resolve all these issues in frames of law and institutions and through dialogue; we should all denounce violence,” he said.
Giga Bokeria, President Saakashvili’s national security adviser and Secretary of National Security Council said that what happened in Tbilisi on May 17 was “shameful” and “alarming.”
He said that perpetrators, who were “filled with hatred”, were “enemies of the Georgian statehood”. “They are criminals and they should be punished,” Bokeria said.
He criticized the Interior Ministry leadership for having no proper plan to manage the situation, but also noted that his criticism was not in address of ordinary policemen, who, he said, were trying to stop the violence.
Like Saakashvili, Bokeria also spoke of “climate of violence”, which, he said, was encouraged by the amnesty carried out by the current government and some of those released from jails as “political prisoners” were now taking part in demonstrations like the one that occurred in Tbilisi on May 17 against anti-homophobia rally. He also said that he was not blaming the current government for existence of problem of homophobia in Georgia, but added that there were people within the current authorities “who were trying to exploit it during the electoral campaign.”
He also criticized those Orthodox clergy, who led anti-gay protesters and said: “Any cleric, who commits violence or calls for violence in a dangerous situation, is committing a crime, according to the Georgian legislation. I hope there will be people in the Church who will say this. But, unfortunately, in today’s developments ‘moral’ initiative was in the hands of those, who preach hatred and commit violence. These people should be punished in accordance to the law.”