BY MISHA DZHINDZHIKHASHVILI, ASSOCIATED PRESS
TBILISI, Georgia -- Thousands of anti-gay protesters, including Orthodox priests, occupied a central street in Georgia's capital Friday, with some threatening to lash with stinging nettles any participant in a gay pride parade which was to take place there.
Police in Tbilisi guarded several dozen gay activists and bused them out of the city center shortly after they arrived at the gathering. Those occupying the street held posters reading "We don't need Sodom and Gomorrah!" and "Democracy does not equal immorality!"
Police, however, failed to prevent scuffles, which resulted in 16 people getting injured, the ambulance service said.
A number of protesters carrying bunches of stinging nettles threatened to use them on gay activists. They insist that homosexuality runs against Georgia's traditional Orthodox Christian values.
Father David, a priest who was one of the organizers of Friday's anti-gay rally, said the parade "insults people's traditions and national sentiments."
A gay rally in Tbilisi last year was also short-lived and ended in a scuffle.
Georgia's authorities had given the green light for the gay parade to take place, saying that all Georgian citizens, irrespective of their sexuality, are entitled to voice their views in public.
"We are against the propaganda of homosexuality," 21-year-old student Nikolai Kiladze said. "If we need to allow parades like this in order to become a member of the European Union or other Western organizations and blocs, then I'm against joining these organizations."
Georgia's human rights ombudsman, Uchi Nanuashvili, said it is "deplorable" that gay people's constitutional rights were violated on Rustavi Street on Friday.