8 arrests at Georgia demo over player's gay rights armband

November 1, 2017

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) Eight people were arrested in Georgia during a far-right protest to demand a soccer player be kicked off the national team because he supported gay rights.

The nationalist Georgian March group wanted defender Guram Kashia punished for wearing a rainbow armband while captaining Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem earlier this month, as part of a broader initiative in the Netherlands for the country's ''Coming Out Day.''

Dozens of protesters gathered outside the Georgian Football Federation headquarters late Tuesday, shouting anti-gay slogans while letting off flares and smoke bombs. They also burned a rainbow flag.

Police said eight people were detained for resisting police and minor hooliganism, and they were due to appear in court Wednesday.

It was not clear how many of those arrested were members of Georgian March, an anti-immigrant and anti-gay rights group which claims to be protecting the ''purity'' of society in the Caucasus nation. Its members also called for the football federation's entire leadership to resign because the federation had supported Kashia.

Kashia has previously told Dutch TV channel NOS he's proud to support equal rights and he has no intention to stop playing for Georgia.

Many Georgian Internet users changed their profile pictures on social networks in support of Kashia, who has also received backing from Georgia's president.

''Everyone has the right for freedom of expression,'' Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili said in a statement on Facebook on Monday. ''We should respect human rights and liberties. I stand with the unanimous support that sporting society has expressed toward Guram Kashia.''mn