Priests in black robes in downtown Tbilisi, Georgia, led a group of thousands in an attack on 50 gay rights demonstrators Friday.
Georgians poured through police lines carrying banners reading “No to mental genocide,” “No to gays,” “Stop Homosexual Propaganda in Georgia!” and “Not in our city!”
The rally, held on an international day against homophobia, broke up as police escorted gay rights demonstrators onto buses. The buses were swarmed and attackers attempted to break windows with trashcans, rocks, and metal grates.
“They wanted to kill all of us,” said Irakli Vacharadze, the head of Identoba, the Tbilisi advocacy group that organized the rally.
Twelve people were hospitalized, including eight or nine protesters and three police officers.
Even after the protesters dispersed, the crowd of attackers hung around shouting at people in the street who they thought might be homosexual later in the evening.
With population of 4.5 million, many Georgians are Orthodox Christians. Head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Ilia II, urged police on Thursday not to allow the gay rally. He claimed it is “a violation of the majority’s right” and “an insult” to tradition.
Ilia reportedly described homosexuality in the past as an “anomaly and a disease.”
Some of the attackers at the protest travelled to Tbilisi, the capital, from other cities. One told a television station that she had come to “treat their illness.”