The mood in Georgia’s parliament was one of tension after a ruling party MP dragged away an opposition lawmaker during a stand-off over a cameraman’s death.
Shalva Papuashvili, a member of the centrist Georgian Dream party, was seen pulling United National Movement MP Tina Bokuchava as parties clashed over the interior minister Vakhtang Gomelauri’s address on Sunday (18 July).
Bokuchava beelined towards Gomelauri as he offered his condolences to a member of the press who died days after anti-LGBT+, anti-Pride far-right violence seized Tbilisi earlier this month, Civil.ge reported.
United National Movement lawmakers disrupted his address by holding up photographs of TV-Pirveli cameraman Aleksandre Lashkarava amid heated criticism at prime minister Irakli Garibashvili’s bungled handling of the upheaval.
Journalists unfurled banners in the plenary hall demanding that the rioters who battered nearly 50 journalists be punished and that the government “take responsibility” for the unchecked violence.
“The only statement that the society expects from you Mr Vakhtang is that you and Irakli Garibashvili should resign,” Bokuchava told the interior minister.
Papuashvili then snaked through the lawmakers packing the floor to grab Bokuchava from behind, appearing to trade barbs before forcing her away from the minister.
“The Georgian Dream’s trademark, the only thing that allows them to retain power, is violence,” Bokuchava said at a press conference after the scuffle.
“They use it against MPs, journalists, cameramen.”
Parliament speaker Kakha Kuchava later announced that the hearing about the riots has been postponed.
Lashkarava died six days after a mob brutally beat him for 20 minutes as he covered the Orthodox Church-led protests that flared in response to an upcoming Tbilisi Pride march.
Prime minister Garibashvili, rather than condemn the far-right rioters who stormed the capital, instead attacked Tbilisi Pride for being “propagandistic“.
Female Georgia MP being dragged away is ‘degrading’, say Tbilisi Pride
Papuashvili’s action prompted outrage from LGBT+ activists, with lawmakers demanding that parliament’s ethics and gender equality councils launch a probe.
Ana Natsvlishvili, an MP for Lelo for Georgia, together with independent lawmaker Tamuna Kordzaia said in a Facebook status that the incident was “not normal” as fears were raised that such “actions against female MPs” could be “normalised”.
In a tweet, Tbilisi Pride director Giorgi Tabagari, whose offices were ransacked during the far-right and religious unrest, said Papuashvili removed Bokuchava “as if she were a statue”.
MP @shpapuashvili from GD had an audacity to touch female opposition politician and remove her by using force, as if she was a statue..
Would he do the same if there was a male MP instead?! I don’t think so!
— Giorgi Tabagari (@Tabagari) July 18, 2021
“Would he do the same if there was a male MP instead? I don’t think so!”
“It is so disrespectful, degrading,” said Mariam Kvaratskhelia, a Tbilisi Pride activist.
“What women in politics and in parliament have to go through is insane!”
Papuashvili simply shrugged off the criticism, asking on Facebook: “What violence?
“Violence was what the country had to watch for years thanks to the United National Movement.”