Georgia: Conservative religious group disrupts rock festival

tbilist jam festival 2016
A group of priests and conservative Orthodox Christian activists attempted to violently shut down the annual Tbilisi JAM Fest, a two-day, open-air international rock festival on the outskirts of Georgia’s capital Tbilisi, reported Georgia Today on 5 June 2016.

The group showed up at the festival location on 4 June 2016 in the Zahesi suburbs just 30 minutes after the concert began, protesting that the festival was taking place too close to religious sites, which were being desecrated by “satanic groups”.

“This place is between a cemetery and a monastery, which is a holy place for Georgians and this insult is unforgivable,” Father Giorgi Razmadze told Rustavi 2 TV. “There were cases, we saw it ourselves, when some people were urinating, others embracing and kissing each other on the territory of the cemetery.”

Police intervened and were able to disperse the group of religious protestors, however the festival was shut down soon after when power was cut to the event. According to a representative of the energy company, a ground cable was damaged “probably during the unrest”, reported online news source Netgazeti.ge on 5 June 2016.

“They were yelling and accusing us of organizing a mass sex orgy, then suddenly the electricity went off,” event organiser Vladimir Unanyants told Netgazeti.ge.

Organisers had all the required licenses from local authorities to hold the festival, which has been held yearly since 2007 in other parts around and in the city. A second location was found for the second day of the festival, which featured rock bands from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Israel, Sweden and Ukraine.

The ultraconservative movement in Georgia has for the last several years been involved in protesting and attacking venues and events that are seen as Western threats to traditional values.


Sources

» BBC – 6 June 2016:
Church disrupts Georgian rock festival

» Georgia Today – 5 June 2016:
Radical priests, Orthodox Christian activists shut down Tbilisi rock festival

» Netgazeti.ge – 5 June 2016:
Priest and parishioners protest rock festival

» Rustavi 2 – 5 June 2016
Rustavi 2 news broadcast