TBILISI -- Thousands have rallied in the Georgian capital to denounce violence against the LGBTQ community that shocked the nation and drew condemnation from Western embassies in the Caucasus nation.
LGBTQ activists were forced to call off a pride march on July 5 in Tbilisi after opponents attacked activists and journalists and after the Georgian government and the Georgian Orthodox Church spoke out against the event.
At least 50 journalists were attacked by mobs at different locations, including two RFE/RL reporters.
On July 6, thousands held a silent gathering in front of parliament to denounce the violence and show support for the injured journalists.
Many at the rally waved EU and rainbow flags, while the police put up a cordon to protect them.
LGBT opponents attempted to disrupt the rally but were held off by the police, local media reported.
After the silent demonstration concluded, the opponents were allowed into the area. They tore down and burned an EU flag that was hanging in front of parliament.
Georgia is not an EU member state but aspires to join the bloc.
The U.S. and EU diplomatic missions in Georgia, as well as the embassies of 16 other countries, issued a joint statement on July 5 calling on the Georgian government to protect people's constitutional right to gather peacefully.
"We condemn today’s violent attacks on the civic activists, community members and journalists, as well as the failure of the government leaders and religious officials to condemn this violence. Participation in peaceful gatherings is a human right guaranteed by Georgia’s constitution," the statement said. "Violence is simply unacceptable and cannot be excused."
Rights groups also condemned the violence and accused the government of supporting hate groups.
"Violent far-right crowds supported by Church & emboldened by incredibly irresponsible statement of PM @GharibashviliGe gathered in Tbilisi center to prevent Pride March, attacking journalists & breaking into Pride office," wrote Giorgi Gogia, the associate director for Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch.
NATO also condemned the violence, which it said ran counter to the alliance's "norms and values."
"I strongly condemn the violence which took place this week, which was directly contradictory to NATO norms and values, including the right to assembly, the rights of minorities, and respect for the media," NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs and Security Policy James Appathurai said.
"I have worked for many years to support Georgia's reforms and its progress towards Euro-Atlantic integration. I found these events deeply disappointing and a setback for Georgia," said Appathurai, who is also NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg's special representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia.