Meat attack at vegan cafe in Tbilisi sparks fears of extremism

By bne IntelliNews June 1, 2016

A vegan cafe in the historical part of Georgia's capital of Tbilisi was attacked by a group of sausage-wielding men on May 29, sparking fears that extremism was on the rise in Georgia. The unusual incident took place just as usual patrons of the alternative lifestyle cafe were attending the screening of an episode of American sci-fi sitcom Rick and Morty, Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported on May 30.

The incident made headlines in international and local media, as have accusations by patrons and owners of the restaurant that the group of attackers appeared to be "ultra nationalists". The rowdy crowd apparently entered the cade with sausages around their necks and carrying slabs of meat on skewers that they started to throw at clients.

When the police arrived, the group had dispersed. The incident comes three days after groups of ultra nationalists staged a march on Georgia's independence day, chanting slogans like "Georgia for Georgians". Owned by an American couple, the vegan cafe attracted a mix of international and Georgian clients, as well as clients from ethnic and sexual minorities.

Neighbours in the area reported that some of the men had inquired about the cafe's clients weeks earlier, specifically about whether sexual minorities were frequenting it.

A large part of the population of Georgia is observing Christian orthodox, and the Orthodox church commands a great deal of influence over the population and politics. The Orthodox church's battle against homosexuality in Georgia has gathered momentum in recent months, after parliamentary discussions on a bill against gay marriage and a Church-sponsored event to promote "family values" in May.

Georgia will hold parliamentary elections in October, with the electoral campaign starting officially on June 8. As a result, the civil society and political parties are even more susceptible to polarisation than they normally are. 

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