A vegan café in the former Soviet republic of Georgia on Sunday was attacked by an angry mob carrying grilled meat, sausages, and fish.
During an English-language movie screening at Kiwi Café, situated in the capital Tbilisi, a “Neo-Nazi” group “who prepared an anti-vegan provocative action” walked in and began throwing meat on diners, and then started to smoke, the eatery said on its Facebook page.
Vegan, English-speaking cafes are a rarity in the former Soviet republic, where the expat community is small and hearty, kebab-laden meals are plentiful.
“They said that we must leave ‘their’ street, leave the country…because in Georgia it’s not accepted to act like we do,” the café claimed.
The incident seemed to compound when passers-by joined in, siding with the “fascists.” One pulled out a knife, while an elderly man brandishing a walking stick left on café customer with facial injuries.
“We broke their so-called peace – peace of watching TV and eating sunflower seeds,” the café added in the statement.
After the mob dispersed, the police showed up. But one of the policemen appeared to take a dim view of the café’s activities, telling the café’s staff that they were “guilty of what had happened.” Several café workers were detained and interrogated at the police station.
The meat-motivated attack could be seen as a highlight of the divisions in Georgian society.
In 2013, Georgia's first sanctioned rally against homophobia, held in Tbilisi, was disrupted by clashes between activists and a 10,000-strong crowd led by Orthodox priests. 28 were injured.
Three days before the vegan café attack, during celebrations marking the independence from the Soviet Union, Georgian nationalists marched in the streets of Tbilisi chanting and carrying banners with the slogan ‘Georgians for Georgia.’ The phrase recalled an era of ethnic conflict which led to minorities splitting from Tbilisi during the chaotic 1990s.
That same day, in an apparent snub to Tbilisi, the northern breakaway region of South Ossetia - which in 2008 was the subject of a bloody five-day war between Russia and the Georgian government - said it would hold a referendum on joining Russia next year.
According to Radio Free Europe’s Georgian service, some Tbilisi residents are concerned that the “xenophobic overtones of the violence at Kiwi Cafe, taken together with the march by right-wing nationalists in Tbilisi just three days earlier, could mark the emergence of organized political actions by Georgian ultranationalists.”