The Latvia gay pride march was banned by Latvian authorities over the weekend on “security grounds” based on threats of violence if the march took place, yet that didn’t stop Christian fundamentalists, neo-Nazis, and ultra-nationalists from trailing gays and lesbians elsewhere in the city.
At several events scheduled to take place in Riga—a Pride rally at the Reval Hotel, a press conference, and a church service—participants were pelted with eggs, excrement, and rotten fruit as they arrived and departed, with thugs trailing them in vehicles.
The picture was much the same last year, when the parade actually did take place, and one participant painted a vivid picture: “There were so many attacks, people were throwing eggs, people were using gaz [sic], they were trying to block the march. It was extremely, extremely homophobic. I don’t think anybody in Europe saw anything like that.”
Pictured here are this year’s anti-gay protestors outside the Reval Hotel. As pretty on the outside as they are on the inside.
UK activist Peter Tatchell witnessed the events first-hand: “The Riga Pride rally in the Reval Hotel was under siege all day by protesters from the anti-gay “No Pride” movement – a highly organised alliance of Christian fundamentalists, ultra-nationalists and neo-Nazis. They roamed the streets outside the hotel, looking for gays and lesbians to attack. Anyone who looked gay was liable to abuse and assault, even passing tourists. The police seemed to stand back and let them to terrorise people with impunity.”
Latvian authorities have been criticized across the board. According to Pink News, city authorities called the gay pride march “the ‘biggest security risk’ to the country since Latvia won its independence from the Soviet Union.” They claim they do not have the capability to handle the security threats, yet other high-profile events in the city tell a different story:
“This explanation does not stand up. Latvia was able to guarantee security for President Bush’s visit. It is guaranteeing security for the Queen’s forthcoming state visit and for the NATO summit later this year. If Latvia can provide security for these high-risk events, then it is nonsense to suggest the police cannot protect 200 gay pride marchers.”
According to the Baltic Times, a total of 14 people have been arrested in connection with the violence that took place over the weekend. Criminal charges are being sought against one of those arrested, while 13 others will face administrative charges.
Gay and lesbian organizations are planning to take their fight against Riga City Council to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary. They certainly aren’t receiving any help from the Latvian government: “The interior minister said he was concerned that the police received the strongest criticism after the anti-gay incidents. In his opinion, officers did a good job.”
Latvia Fails Democracy Test After Gay Rights Violence [pink news]
Gay bashers arrested after parade attack [baltic times]
Our coverage of last year’s event…
“I am safe. I am at home now.” [tr]