4 Sep 2009

Baltic Pride

It was a rocky ride all the way for Baltic Pride. After being giving the go ahead to proceed on May 16th, more than half of the members of the Rīga City Council – 34 in all – then signed a letter to the executive director of the city, Andris Grīnbergs, calling on him to repeal the permission “as the decision taken by the commission is in violation not only of the normative acts that are listed in the letter, but also of the interests of people in Rīga…” The letter also stated that the march in the streets should be banned “because of a real threat against public security and morality,” . Mozaika the Latvian LGBT organisation met with Grīnbergs and the police and they understood hat a prohibition on the march would be unlawful. However, Riga City Council Commission continued with it's prohibitions on the Baltic Pride march. Mozaika then applied to the Administrative Court which lifted the ban on the Baltic Pride March which was scheduled for the following day. A representative of the Riga City Council at the court could not provide clear justifications why the City has banned the March. The Court hearing was attended by the representatives of No Pride Movement, Roman Catholic Church in Latvia and a religious sect New Generation. All three asked the Court to be allowed to participate in the hearing as interested parties but were refused permission.
Bans on LGBT Pride Marches were also lifted by the Latvian courts in 2005, 2005 and 2006. The Pride March in 2006 in Riga resulted in a hotel being held under seige.

So after all the ups and downs, finally the march went ahead. Just under 600 people took part in Baltic Pride. It was the first time that it had been jointly organized by lgbt organizations representing Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. The anti-gay protesters came out in force but it was very well policed and there were no reported arrests. The area around Vērmaņdārzs Park in the city centre was the focal point for the march and the celebration area was sealed-off by police. Security was tight for those who wanted to take part and gain entry to the park. The protestors gathered outside the park in cordoned-off areas. There were placards and posters with hate messages and the protestors called for LGBT people to be exterminated in gas chambers.

One anti-gay activist Liga Dimitere, wife of Kaspars Dimiters, who is a well-known Latvian religious figure, was allowed into the secure area. She then walked backwards at the start of the parade. Dressed in a long black dress and wearing a white scarf, she carried a heavy wooden cross around her neck, She called on the Mothers of the Baltic States to wear white scarves and come to the march and “save the souls of their children from the sodomites, which are going to celebrate the “victory day” of their morbid pride. The government of my country allowed it and resigned from preventing our children from this unchastity”. She did not shout but every now and then would stop, so the Pride marches just down and then rose up at intervals to give a Mexican wave effect. Towards the end of the march, she threw herself to the ground and her husband knelt at her side praying. The pride marchers just walked passed her.

Taking part in the march were people from around 15 different countries, in addition to the three Baltic States. They came from as far apart as the Faroe Islands to Turkey, arranged by Amnesty International. Ilga-Europe, Pride London, which is ‘twinned’ with Riga Pride. A section of the march was also holding placards which said marching for those who can’t which was very significant.

Richard Moon, the UK ambassador invited guests to the UK embassy for tea and biscuits. He used the opportunity to present Mozaika with the FCO LGBT toolkit which had been translated into the three Baltic languages.
Next year, Baltic Pride will take place in Lithuania.

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