A Pride march in Georgia has been called off after violent counter-protesters stormed the offices of the organisers, smashing equipment and attacking activists.
Tbilisi Pride had planned to hold a “March for Dignity” through the centre of the capital of Georgia on Monday, but had come under intense criticism from social conservatives and church figures.
Shortly before the march was due to begin, a group of counter-protesters opposed to the LGBT+ activists forced their way into their offices in Tbilisi.
They tore down rainbow flags from the walls and balconies, broke equipment and aggressively confronted Tbilisi Pride members, who shortly afterwards called off their demonstration.
Videos posted online showed the violent clashes between the two groups of protesters, with some footage also showing a journalist with a bloodied mouth and a man on a scooter driving at other reporters in the street.
"No words can explain my emotions and thoughts right now. This is my working space, my home, my family today. Left alone in the face of gross violence," Tamaz Sozashvili, one LGBT+ activist, tweeted.
Earlier, Georgia’s interior ministry had urged Tbilisi Pride to call off their march on security grounds.
It said in a statement it was aware of a planned counter demonstration and that threats had been made towards journalists covering the Pride march.
"We once again publicly call on the participants of ‘Tbilisi Pride’ to refrain from the ‘March of Dignity’ ... due to the scale of counter-manifestations planned by opposing groups," the statement concluded.
The prime minister of Georgia, Irakli Garibashvili, had also appealed for the march to be cancelled in the run-up to the event.
He described it as “not reasonable”, a risk to public order, and something which would be rejected by most Georgians, the Civil Georgia media outlet reported.
If the march had gone ahead, it would have been just the second Pride event to take place in the deeply Christian nation.
Tbilisi Pride had hoped to hold a film screening and concert, as well as a march through the city centre.
"This is the opportunity for us to talk directly to the people of this country and raise awareness about LGBT+ issues," the group’s director Giorgi Tabagari said in advance.
"The idea of Pride is to change the mindset of the public."
Although Georgia has slowly liberalised in recent years, it remains a mostly socially conservative country and the Tbilisi Pride plans drew condemnation from the influential Orthodox Church, as well as threats from far-right groups.
The first Pride events in 2019 were also mostly postponed after the government said it could not guarantee participants’ safety in the face of violent counter-protesters.