Fighting at gay rights march in Tbilisi Georgia

A protester (left) fights with a gay rights activist in Tbilisi, 17 May Marchers were confronted as they prepared to head for parliament

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Religious protesters have blocked a small gay rights march in the capital of the former Soviet republic of Georgia, Tbilisi.

Fighting broke out as protesters attacked marchers, tearing up placards, and police made several arrests.

"How can you promote such a thing in the streets where there are children?" a priest told AFP news agency.

A march organiser said they had expected a "negative reaction" but not to be attacked physically.

The marchers were trying to mark International Day Against Homophobia.

'Then we have to'

A few dozen marchers had gathered outside the Tbilisi state concert hall and were preparing to march towards parliament.

Protesters, including some Orthodox Christian priests, confronted them.

Gay rights activists with a rainbow flag in Tbilisi, 17 May A couple of dozen people took part in the march

Some priests approached nearby police officers asking them "to stop this indecency" but an officer responded that the police could not "ban them from [marching]", according to the Civil Georgia website.

"Then we have to do that," the priest reportedly replied.

When fighting began, the police stepped in and made arrests, both of protesters and marchers.

"This shows that Tbilisi has a long way to go to become a modern European city," Natia Gvianishvili of the gay rights group Identoba told AFP afterwards.

"We expected a negative reaction but did not expect to be attacked."

During the confrontation, a priest told the gay rights marchers: "This is propaganda [for a] wrong way of life."

The Orthodox Church is the main religious body in Georgia, a nation of 4.3 million people.

Homosexual sex was decriminalised in 2000. Gay rights activists are currently trying to have discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation outlawed.

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