It was supposed to be a fun night of movie watching at the popular Kiwi Cafe, a vegan cafe in Tbilisi, the capital city of the former Soviet republic of Georgia.
But then a rowdy group of men showed up Sunday wearing sausages around their necks and carrying slabs of meat on skewers, reported Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty.
The men, about a dozen of them, spoke and laughed loudly and ignored requests from the staff to quiet down.
Then, all heck broke loose.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
The men started eating the meat, and fish, in front of everyone, then threw it at the staff and onto customers’ plates, according to news reports and a statement on the cafe’s Facebook page.
“They were yelling, ‘We know your face, we know who you are,” 20-year-old cafe employee Giorgi Gegelashvili told Vice.
The fracas turned into a brawl spilling into the streets, with minor injuries reported. The men took off before police arrived.
Vice describes the Kiwi Cafe as “a hipster enclave in the city. It’s located on a rundown street at the edge of the country’s capital and is known for its veggie burgers and felafel.”
Witnesses described the attackers as “far-right extremists.” The cafe accused them of being “neo-Nazis” who support “fascist ideas.”
It’s unclear who carried out the attack, The New York Times reported, citing analysts who cautioned that it’s too early to dub the incident a violent stunt, an anti-vegan protest or “part of a nationalist attack against the freewheeling Western liberal values epitomized by the cafe.”
LGBT communities and subcultures such as punks and goths are still treated as unwelcome cultural imports from the West by some in the former Soviet Union, Newsweek reports.
Even some of the cafe’s own neighbors feel that way.
“I do not like that Kiwi place,” the owner of a local business told Vice. “They put things in their hair, their skin …”
But as it sheds its Soviet mores, Georgia has moved closer to liberal Western attitudes than some of its neighboring countries, according to the Times.
That leads some analysts to consider the Kiwi Cafe attack a symptom of the area’s ongoing East-West cultural growing pains.
“We have been seeing in Georgia, the growth of nationalists — fanned by Russia — who are questioning foreign Western values such as gay marriage or gay rights being imposed on the country,” Giorgi Gogia, the south Caucasus director at Human Rights Watch in Tbilisi, told the Times.
“The Kiwi Cafe attracts hipsters, gays, people who are different, and they symbolize liberal Western values.”
The cafe’s Facebook statement reported that some of neighbors who “had already showed us their negative attitude a lot of times” sided with the attackers.
“Our neighbors do not like us, maybe because we have piercings and tattoos and talk about peace,” employee Gegelashvili told Vice.
But the Kiwi Cafe is still open for business.
Veggie burgers are still being served.
“In spite of the situation and everyday negative attitude to us and other people, who visit us, cafe is continuing to work and is ready to accept all costumers regardless of nationality, race, appearance, age, gender, sexual orientation, religious views, etc.” the restaurant’s statement read.
“Equality is the most important thing for us.”