Anti-gay protesters not deterred by change in gay Pride plans
The second effort to stage a gay pride parade in Riga, Latvia, July 22, failed, but anti-gay protesters demonstrated anyway.
The City Council and a court banned the parade, claiming police wouldn’t be able to protect marchers from marauding homophobic mobs. So, activists instead staged a religious service at a church and meetings at a hotel.
But the counter-protesters were not deterred by the change in plans. Scores of anti-gay protesters gathered outside the Anglican church and flung human excrement, eggs and rotten food at gays and lesbians as they left the building.
Activist meetings later in the day at the four-star Reval Hotel met a similar fate, attracting hundreds of anti-gay demonstrators.
“[We were] under siege all day by protesters from the anti-gay “‘No Pride’ movement a highly organized alliance of Christian fundamentalists, ultra-nationalists and neo-Nazis,” said participant Peter Tatchell. “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 terrorize people with impunity.”
Blogging live from the site, Russian participant Nikolai Alekseev reported: “As the speeches of local politicians and foreign politicians are coming to an end in a room where 100 gays and lesbians came to celebrate what should have been Riga’s second Gay Pride, protesters started to attack those going out of the hotel.
“Today, Latvia does not show the face of a modern and democratic country,” Alekseev said. “Instead, Riga is showing the face of homophobic fascism. It feels like [this year's] Moscow [Pride] all over again. Homophobic mobs are roaming the streets of Riga with apparent impunity.”
Reports said 14 protesters were arrested during the various confrontations.
Latvia’s prime minister, Aigars Kalvitis, and president, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, disagreed with the City Council and the Regional Administrative Court, and had urged that the parade be permitted.
“It lies at the very foundations of the Constitution of Latvia that human rights shall be respected in Latvia without any discrimination, which means that nobody can be restricted in his/her activities based on his/her religious beliefs, ethnic background, sexual orientation, gender or belonging to some other group,” Vike-Freiberga said. “Furthermore, the Constitution guarantees to the residents of Latvia the right to the freedom of speech and assembly.”
On July 24, the pride organizing group, Mozaika, announced plans to “sue the city of Riga in the European Court of Human Rights for banning the march.”
“The presidency of the European Union is now held by Finland, which will put the Riga Pride events at the top of a list of discussions at a meeting of European Ministers of Justice next week,” the group’s cofounder, Laris Grava, said in a press release. “We expect severe condemnation of the government of Latvia from other European governments.”
Last year, gays were allowed to stage Riga’s first Pride parade. The approximately 150 marchers were heavily outnumbered by around 1,000 anti- gay protesters who hurled insults, bottles and rotten eggs; blocked the streets; and forced the parade to be rerouted. The protesters chanted “No sodomy” and “Gays fuck the nation.”
Prime Minister Kalvitis opposed last year’s march, denouncing it as “a parade of sexual minorities [taking] place in the middle of our capital city next to the Dom [Cathedral]. This is not acceptable,” he said. “Latvia is a state based on Christian values. We cannot promote things that are unacceptable to a large part of society.”
But Kalvitis later had an apparent change of heart, saying: “There were attempts to link my statements with expressions of homophobic views and hate in the society. This is not true.
“Latvia is a democratic country that wishes and is able to ensure human rights of every person living here. [T]he government of Latvia is clearly against discrimination of any kind. It is worth noting that not long before the parade the Cabinet of Ministers adopted decisions preventing discrimination of sexual minorities in [the] labor market.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, July 28, 2006.