Georgians protest for 2nd straight day over journalist death
TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — Hundreds of people protested in Georgia on Monday for a second day in a row, demanding the government of the ex-Soviet nation resign over the death of a journalist who was attacked and beaten by anti-LGBT protesters.
Demonstrators gathered in front of Georgia’s parliament in the capital of Tbilisi, then went on to rally in front of the headquarters of the ruling Georgian Dream party. Some threw eggs and paint at the party headquarters building and 12 people were arrested.
Cameraman Alexander Lashkarava was found dead in his home Sunday by his mother, according to the TV Pirveli channel he worked for. Lashkarava was one of several dozen journalists attacked last Monday by opponents of an LGBT march that had been scheduled to take place that day in Tbilisi.
Organizers of the Tbilisi March For Dignity cancelled the event, saying authorities had not provided adequate security guarantees. Opponents of the march blocked off the capital’s main avenue, denounced journalists covering the protest as pro-LGBT propagandists and threw sticks and bottles at them.
Lashkarava was brutally beaten, and local TV channels showed him with bruises on his face and blood on the floor around him. Media reports say he sustained multiple injuries and had to undergo surgery but was discharged from a hospital on Thursday.
The cause of his death was not immediately clear.
Georgia’s Interior Ministry said Monday that Lashkarava could have died of a drug overdose, but his colleagues scoffed at the claim.
“I do not trust the Interior Ministry in anything,” said Vato Tsereteli, owner of the TV Pirveli channel. Tsereteli tried to meet with lawmakers earlier on Monday but was denied access to the parliament.
Animosity against sexual minorities is strong in the conservative Black Sea nation of Georgia. The Tbilisi Pride group said opponents of the planned march were supported by the government and by the Georgian Orthodox Church. One photo reportedly showed a journalist caught in a headlock by an Orthodox priest.
Georgia’s President Salome Zurabishvili condemned the violence, but Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili alleged the march was organized by “radical opposition” forces that he claimed were led by exiled former President Mikheil Saakashvili.