The Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Aleksandre Darakhvelidze held a briefing regarding the recent developments in Tbilisi.
“Due to the high public interest, we would like to provide the public with detailed information regarding the activities carried out by the Ministry of Internal Affairs in parallel with the “Tbilisi Pride” Week.
Numerous working meetings were held with the Tbilisi Pride, organized by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), with the participation of representatives of local and international organizations, diplomatic corps, the Public Defender’s Office, as well as with the participation of the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs and heads of various departments, in order to hold Tbilisi Pride in a safe environment.
After being informed about the details regarding the events scheduled for July 1st and 3rd - film screenings and Queer Fest, namely its location, timing, approximate amount of guests and safety measures implemented on behalf of the event organizers, representatives of the MIA stated that the Ministry, taking into account the specifics of the measures, would ensure a safe and peaceful environment for the event.
As for the march planned on July 5, it was openly and unequivocally explained to the participants of the meeting, that based on the information announced in open sources and taking into account past experiences, mobilization of counter-demonstrators and their estimated number, holding the event in the planned format would pose a big risk in terms of protecting the safety of the participants of the march.
The participants of the meeting were offered to discuss the alternative location, however, they stated that they only wanted to hold a demonstration on Rustaveli Avenue. Despite a number of working meetings, Tbilisi Pride representatives remained on their position.
On June 30, a meeting was held at the MIA on the occasion of Pride Week between the Minister of Internal Affairs and the representatives of the diplomatic corps accredited in Georgia, as well as the representatives of international organizations. During the meeting with the ambassadors, the Minister clearly stated the readiness of the state and specifically the MIA in terms of protecting human rights and provided detailed information on its plan to safeguard the closed events held within the Pride Week.
Herewith, he also informed them on the number of counter-meetings and manifestations planned by the different groups in parallel with the march planned within the framework of “Tbilisi Pride” week on July 5. Taking into consideration the scale of the territory of the rally, also experience from previous years, representatives of diplomatic corps were explained that holding the pride in Rustaveli Avenue was extremely dangerous and it was necessary to consider alternative venues, which was rejected by the organizers of “Tbilisi Pride”. According to the information hold by the Minister, based on the analysis, during the course of large-scale event and rally, confrontations were unavoidable, as well as facts of individual stalking and assaulting.
On July first, for ensuring the safety of the event planned within the framework of “Tbilisi Pride” week in the adjacent territory of the Vakhushti Bagrationi Bridge, club “khidi”, police officers inspected the territory precisely, elaborated the plan for holding the event safely and in accordance of this plan, from the morning hours, up to 650 employees of the Ministry were mobilized on the territory, ensuring public order.
Dams and manpower were used for the security purposes. The mobilization of additional police forces on the territory was planned and carried out according to the situation. In parallel with the arrival of the people aiming to attend the event, the opposing groups began to mobilize on the spot.
As a result of the high level of mobilization and effective response from the police and despite the efforts of aggressive groups, the film screening took place in a safe environment, which received positive assessments from the organizers of the “Tbilisi Pride”, as well as various local and international organizations.
As for the event of July 3, the relevant police units together with those responsible for the security of the event visited the festival venue, inspected it and elaborated the plan. According to the plan, on July 3, the relevant police units were mobilized in the surrounding area of Lisi Lake, the total number of which amounted to 850 employees. In parallel with the commencement of the festival, the opposing groups of the Pride began to mobilize on the road towards Lisi Lake.
As a result of preventive and active measures taken by the police, despite the protest of the opposing groups, the festival was held in the territory of Lisi-Wonderland without any excesses.
During another meeting that was held at the UN house, and was attended by the representatives of the diplomatic corps, issues related to the event of July 5 were discussed. The Ministry informed the organisers of the ‘Tbilisi Pride’ on the possible risks - in particular, as established by open and closed sources, a large number of mobilised people were planning to hold a counter rally at various locations. Additionally, they were informed, that these assemblies allegedly could pose risks and sudden attacks on the participants of the march.
During the meeting, the Ministry stated that ensuring safety of the event on specific location and demonstration march is strategically and technically different, considering the fact that simultaneously several large-scale counter -rallies were planned. Taking into account their safety, the Ministry once again suggested another location for the event, where police could have ensured peaceful environment for the event.
Despite abovementioned, they clearly stated that they were not considering the change of the location for the march.
As regards for the vent of July 5, in accordance with the predetermined plan, relevant police units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs started mobilising on Rustaveli Avenue and surrounding areas from the morning. Reserve of Special Forces was also mobilised, which, if necessary, would have been involved in the event, in compliance with the specific instructions. In total, about 3,200 police officers were on standby to take part in the July 5 event.
Taking into consideration that the exact time and location of the Pride March announced by ‘Tbilisi Pride’ were unknown in advance, police units were deployed to various locations where adversary groups were stationed; in particular, the area around the Rustaveli Metro, the area around the Kashveti Church, the „Dedaena Park“, the „9 April Park“, the area around the Tbilisi Concert Hall, and other places.
In the view of fact that, only anti-march groups were planning to gather in the abovementioned territory, there was no need to deploy the special police cordons.
During the rally on Rustaveli Avenue, members of the anti-dignity march suddenly became aggressive and started violent acts.
Initially, some of them started to dismantle tents set up in front of the parliament building as part of another protest, while certain groups of participants openly and aggressively attacked media representatives. Police forces were immediately mobilized on the spot, the situation was neutralized and media representatives were evacuated to the safe place.
In parallel with the mentioned developments, the part of the protesters unexpectedly moved from the vicinity of the Parliament building to the office of the Shame movement on Ingorokva Street, a few meters away from the Parliament building. Patrol police crew was mobilized in advance, however due to the large number of protesters, the invasion into the entrance of the Shame office could not be prevented until additional groups arrived. In parallel with receiving information, additional police forces were mobilized to neutralize the situation, protect the office and ensure the safety of media representatives on the spot. Consequently, there was no invasion of protesters in the Shame office.
At the same time, a disorganized and chaotic movement of counter-protesters took place in different streets of Tbilisi; therefore, the police forces had to mobilize law enforcers in several places simultaneously. In particular, among other places, the participants gathered in front of the United Nations building near the “Round Garden”, some of the activists marched to the office of the “Tbilisi Pride” on Akhvlediani Street in Tbilisi, where protesters entered the office from the outside perimeter of the building and damaged items and equipment.
As soon as the information was received by the police, additional forces were deployed to the mentioned address and the actions of the aggressive groups were foiled in time after their arrival.
The members of the aggressive group also learned that the members of the “Tbilisi Pride” and their supporters were in the office of the non-governmental organization - “Rights Georgia” located on Akaki Gakhokidze Street, Tbilisi, consequently, the members of radical groups managed to mobilize.
Based on the analysis of the protesters’ movement route, as well as on the personal communication of the employees of the Ministry, it was clear there was a threat of attack on the offices of various local or international organizations, including the European Union, the Ombudsman, non-governmental organization “WISG”, the Equality Movement. The MIA had to deploy a sufficient number of police officers in the current regime to safely evacuate the individuals from the offices and to protect the building. For prevention reasons, police forces were mobilized at the offices of various TV companies.
In parallel with the attack on the offices of organizations, in the squares on Rustaveli Avenue and the surrounding area, the police live force tried to restrain the persons involved in the meeting throughout the day, as their aggression was directed towards journalists and cameramen.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs immediately launched investigation into the violent acts carried out by the Pride opponents. The investigation is in progress and all necessary investigative or procedural activities are being carried out.
As a result of operative-investigative activities carried out by the employees of Tbilisi Police Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 7 individuals have already been arrested on the facts of violence with a threat and illegal interference in the professional activities of a journalist. Relevant investigative and procedural actions are being carried out. In order to identify persons involved in the acts of violence and offence, the video materials reflecting the incidents are being studied.
The investigation is also in progress regarding the illegal activities carried out at the offices of the Shame movement, Tbilisi Pride and non-governmental organization located on Gakhokidze Street, Tbilisi.
It is important to note that representatives of “Tbilisi Pride”, as well as non-governmental organizations, refused to cooperate with the police in the course of the investigation procedures.
As for the events that developed on Rustaveli Avenue on July 6, it should be underlined that two large-scale counter-manifestations were planned, police forces, including Special Tasks Forces, were mobilized immediately, involving 3,000 police employees. It should be noted that both, the protest rally and the counter-manifestation were held in vicinities of the Parliament building, at one location, therefore, the live forces have been fully concentrated to separate the participants of protest rally and the counter-manifestation. Approximately for 6 hours, the police effectively provided mass management, took under arrest the aggressive groups and ensured the safety of the protesters.
The employees of the MIA detained 100 citizens under the Code of Administrative Offences for the exposed facts of violation. 68 citizens were released on the basis of the acknowledgement, while 32 remain in temporary detention isolator. In addition to the mentioned, Patrol Police officers detained two individuals under the Criminal Code of Georgia at the scene as the accused persons. It is notable that three police officers were injured.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs, once again condemns any form of violence and continues active investigative activities in order to make relevant legal response”, - said the Deputy Minister.