Decision comes just 3 days before event was scheduled; activists push Administrative Court to hear case
The City Council in Riga, Latvia, on Wednesday denied a permit for the planned Riga Pride 2006 march, just three days before the event was scheduled to occur.
Council members said their decision resulted from the inability of police to guarantee security for the marchers after several threats of violence were made by extremist groups in the former Eastern European nation annexed by the USSR.
According to city officials, the information about these threats is classified as a state secret and will not be made public for five years.
“We are shocked by the City Council’s decision, which we view as not only an unacceptable restriction of the freedom of assembly, but a major blow to democracy in the face of terrorist threats,” said Linda Freimane, a board member of Mozaika, one of three organizations sponsoring the parade.
Freimane said the groups would take the matter to the Administrative Court, just as coordinators did last year after the council reached a similar ruling. The court acted quickly in 2005, overturning the council’s decision to revoke the parade permit.
“So we are very hopeful that this year, too, the court will defend democratic rights in Latvia by overturning the council’s decision,” she said.
Representatives of Latvian security organizations said extremist groups have had more time to get organized than last year. As evidence, they pointed to the 100 or so demonstrators present outside the City Council chamber Wednesday and a petition opposing the march which bore 17,000 signatures.
The police concluded their presentation by asking coordinators to voluntarily withdraw the request for a parade permit, Mozaika leaders said.
About 20 foreign officials will be in Latvia over the weekend to participate at the event and related Friendship Days. They include members of parliaments in Sweden, Denmark and the European Union.
A Swedish army captain and representatives of several human rights organizations also plan to attend, according to Mozaika.
The march was planned by representatives of Mozaika, an association of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, and by the gay rights organizations International Gay and Lesbian Association-Latvia and Rigas Praids.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, July 21, 2006.