Gay club attacked in Lithuania

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Smoke bombs were set off in a nightclub in Vilnius last night as members of the International Gay and Lesbian Association partied inside.

The Lithuanian capital is hosting ILGA Europe’s annual conference, despite a ban on a public Rainbow Flag display by the city’s mayor.

Last night’s incident happened at Soho nightclub, which is next to the conference venue.

The BBC reports that revellers had difficulty breathing but were asked to remain inside the venue for security reasons.

Security was also the reason given by Vilnius city officials for banning the gay public event.

ILGA Europe executive director Patricia Prendiville said “It is a positive duty of the city authorities to offer an alternative venue to the applicant and they did not do that.

“There is no doubt that the city of Vilnius used the construction works as a cover.”

Around 200 delegates from all over Europe are attending the three day meeting,

ILGA Europe chose to hold their 11th annual conference in Lithuania to highlight the prejudice gay people face in the country, formerly part of the Soviet Union.

A small group picketed the conference venue this morning, holding posters demanding that delegates go home. They asked passers-by to sign a petition against “homosexual propaganda.”

Yesterday MEP Michael Cashman and Gesa Boeckermann from the European Commission’s Anti-Discrimination Unit took part in panel discussions.

A reception last night was addressed by Oskaras Jusys, Lithuanian Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Mr Jusys pointed out that while Lithuania has most of laws in order, there is still a huge gap in the social development and as a result of 50 years of Soviet occupation it will take a while before the country reaches the same level of acceptance and tolerance as in Western Europe.

Lithuania joined the EU in 2005.

In May the mayor of Vilnius refused to give permission for the European Commission’s anti-discrimination truck tour to visit the city.

The truck was part of the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All campaign, but mayor Juozas Imbrasas claimed it could cause a security risk and riots.

Conservative attitudes are common in Lithuania, as homosexuality was illegal in the Soviet Union until 1993.

Earlier this year, reported that more than half of Lithuanian MPs believe homosexuality to be a perversion.

A poll last December found that only 17% of Lithuanians support gay marriage.