Far-right activists in Georgia protest gay-themed film premiere

Far-right activists in Georgia protest gay-themed film premiere

Riot police in Georgia have arrested more than 25 people for protesting against an Oscar-nominated Swedish-Georgian gay-themed film. Shouting 'Lo

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Riot police in Georgia have arrested more than 25 people for protesting against an Oscar-nominated Swedish-Georgian gay-themed film.

Shouting ‘Long live Georgia’ and ‘Shame’, the protesters tried to force their way inside the Amirani cinema but where held back.

One was detained for attacking a young woman and 24 others for hooliganism and disobeying police orders.

‘This is not just a movie. This is an insult to our faith, our traditions and all that is holy for us,’ said Guram Damenia, who came dressed in a traditional Georgian costume.

Hundreds of far-right activists gathered to protest ‘And Then We Danced’, which was holding its opening night in capital city Tbilisi, with some burning a rainbow flag 

Set in Georgia, ‘And Then We Danced’ is a love story about two male dancers in Georgia’s national ballet company.

The drama has won worldwide critical acclaim but was denounced by the Caucasus country’s influential Orthodox Church as an ‘affront to the traditional Georgian values’.

Georgian orthodox protestors burn a LGBTQ flag in front of the Amirani Cinema in Tbilisi in protest at the critically-acclaimed gay-themed film 'And Then We Danced'

Georgian orthodox protestors burn a LGBTQ flag in front of the Amirani Cinema in Tbilisi in protest at the critically-acclaimed gay-themed film 'And Then We Danced'

Georgian orthodox protestors burn a LGBTQ flag in front of the Amirani Cinema in Tbilisi in protest at the critically-acclaimed gay-themed film ‘And Then We Danced’

In front of the Amirani cinema in the capital Tbilisi, the anti-gay protesters chanted 'Long live Georgia!' and 'Shame!' amid a heavy police presence

In front of the Amirani cinema in the capital Tbilisi, the anti-gay protesters chanted 'Long live Georgia!' and 'Shame!' amid a heavy police presence

In front of the Amirani cinema in the capital Tbilisi, the anti-gay protesters chanted ‘Long live Georgia!’ and ‘Shame!’ amid a heavy police presence

People surround a woman injured during an anti-LGBTQ protest against the premiere screening. The interior ministry said 11 protesters were arrested for 'disobeying police'

People surround a woman injured during an anti-LGBTQ protest against the premiere screening. The interior ministry said 11 protesters were arrested for 'disobeying police'

People surround a woman injured during an anti-LGBTQ protest against the premiere screening. The interior ministry said 11 protesters were arrested for ‘disobeying police’

In front of the Amirani cinema in the capital Tbilisi, the anti-gay protesters chanted ‘Long live Georgia!’ and ‘Shame!’. They burned the rainbow flag as an Orthodox priest recited a prayer.

‘Photo and video materials on the incidents are being processed to identify wrongdoers and provide appropriate legal response,’ the ministry said.

The cinema, which had earlier posted a video on Facebook of policemen checking the cinema’s seats with sniffer dogs. They let ticket holders inside for the evening premiere showing and then shut the doors.

‘Georgian folk dance is an epitome of the Georgian spiritual values, we will not let them defile our national traditions,’ said one of the far-right protesters, 35-year-old housewife Teona Gogava.

Maka Kiladze, a forty-year-old choreographer who was among the audience in the cinema, said: ‘There is huge interest towards the film in Georgia. It’s anomaly that we have to face an angry mob to attend a film screening.’

Levan Vasadze, a Georgian businessman with links to Russia's anti-Western and far-right groups, said his supporters will 'enter screening rooms in the six cinemas in Tbilisi and turn off the projectors'

Levan Vasadze, a Georgian businessman with links to Russia's anti-Western and far-right groups, said his supporters will 'enter screening rooms in the six cinemas in Tbilisi and turn off the projectors'

Levan Vasadze, a Georgian businessman with links to Russia’s anti-Western and far-right groups, said his supporters will ‘enter screening rooms in the six cinemas in Tbilisi and turn off the projectors’

Homosexuality is still highly stigmatised in Georgia, a socially conservative Black Sea nation where the immensely influential Orthodox Church has previously clashed with Western-leaning governments. Pictured: An Orthodox priest talks to policemen

Homosexuality is still highly stigmatised in Georgia, a socially conservative Black Sea nation where the immensely influential Orthodox Church has previously clashed with Western-leaning governments. Pictured: An Orthodox priest talks to policemen

Homosexuality is still highly stigmatised in Georgia, a socially conservative Black Sea nation where the immensely influential Orthodox Church has previously clashed with Western-leaning governments. Pictured: An Orthodox priest talks to policemen

Maka Kiladze, a forty-year-old choreographer who was among the audience in the cinema, said: 'There is huge interest towards the film in Georgia. It's anomaly that we have to face an angry mob to attend a film screening'

Maka Kiladze, a forty-year-old choreographer who was among the audience in the cinema, said: 'There is huge interest towards the film in Georgia. It's anomaly that we have to face an angry mob to attend a film screening'

Maka Kiladze, a forty-year-old choreographer who was among the audience in the cinema, said: ‘There is huge interest towards the film in Georgia. It’s anomaly that we have to face an angry mob to attend a film screening’

Georgia's interior ministry issued a statement, promising to ensure 'the protection of public safety and order, as well as the freedom of self-expression'

Georgia's interior ministry issued a statement, promising to ensure 'the protection of public safety and order, as well as the freedom of self-expression'

Georgia’s interior ministry issued a statement, promising to ensure ‘the protection of public safety and order, as well as the freedom of self-expression’

Critics of the ruling Georgian Dream party have accused the government of giving tacit support to homophobic and nationalist groups which traditionally support the party in elections

Critics of the ruling Georgian Dream party have accused the government of giving tacit support to homophobic and nationalist groups which traditionally support the party in elections

Critics of the ruling Georgian Dream party have accused the government of giving tacit support to homophobic and nationalist groups which traditionally support the party in elections

Earlier this week, Sandro Bregadze, a former junior minister in the ruling Georgian Dream party’s government, said his nationalist Georgian March group would not allow the film to be screened in Tbilisi, calling it ‘propaganda of sodomy’.

Levan Vasadze, a Georgian businessman with links to Russia’s anti-Western and far-right groups, said his supporters will ‘enter screening rooms in the six cinemas in Tbilisi and turn off the projectors,’ also vowing to ‘shove back police if need be’.

‘Some far right groups and the Church have basically condemned the film and are planning to stop people from entering the sold out screenings,’ the film’s director Levan Akin, a Swede with Georgian roots, wrote on his Facebook page earlier Friday.

These are ‘dark times we live in,’ he wrote, adding that it is important to ‘stand up against these shadowy forces in any way we can’.

Georgia’s interior ministry issued a statement, promising to ensure ‘the protection of public safety and order, as well as the freedom of self-expression’.

‘We address everyone: obey the law. Otherwise, police will use their lawful mandate and suppress unlawful acts immediately,’ the statement said.

Homosexuality is still highly stigmatised in Georgia, a socially conservative Black Sea nation where the immensely influential Orthodox Church has previously clashed with Western-leaning governments over social issues.

Homosexuality was banned in Georgia after the country was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1921.

After the Soviet Union’s collapse, the ban was not enforced, but officially homosexuality was only decriminalised in 2000, with anti-discrimination laws adopted in 2006.

Critics of the ruling Georgian Dream party have accused the government of giving tacit support to homophobic and nationalist groups which traditionally support the party in elections and have staged protest rallies against pro-Western opposition parties. 

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