Two EU cities refuse to sign gay rights appeal

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The Mayors of Riga in Latvia and Tallinn in Estonia have declined to take part in a campaign affirming freedom of assembly and expression for LGBT people in Europe.

The Europe branch of the International Gay and Lesbian Association wanted the leaders of those cities to join 19 others in Europe and declare their support for their initiative.

The Mayors of Paris, Nicosia, Amsterdam, Winterthur, London, Stockholm, Cologne, Barcelona, Venice, Vienna, Bologna, Manchester, Copenhagen, Budapest, Ljubljana, Zürich, Berlin, Dublin and Luxembourg have all pledged their support.

However Janis Birks, the Mayor of Riga, the scene of violent protests and attacks at a gay Pride event in 2006, said:

“The Riga City Council truly supports your initiative, greatly appreciates the actions of the campaign and all the possible positive effects generated by the project” and that the Riga City Council is “very open to deepening and broadening our partnership in concrete initiatives in the years to come.”

However, the Riga Mayor concluded: “the decision on the appeal should rather remain an individual competence of each City.”

Gay campaigners were attacked with eggs and bags of excrement and left feeling under siege by protesters as they aimed to quietly celebrate Riga Pride in 2006.

Authorities in the Latvian capital had banned the gay parade on public order grounds, but activists including Outrage’s Peter Tatchell and GayRussia’s Nikolai Alexeyev decided to continue with smaller activities.

ILGA-Europe’s campaign on the freedom of assembly and expression for LGBT people caused considerable discussions and media coverage in Estonia.

Edgar Savisaar, the Mayor of Tallinn, stated that as this is an issue of importance from society point of view, and therefore in order to form an opinion on the appeal, he forwarded this appeal to Tallinn City Council’s education and culture commission.

Following discussion, the commission decided to advise the Mayor to reply to ILGA-Europe’s letter, explain the “good situation” of minorities in Tallinn and thus justify not signing the petition.

The Deputy Mayor, Kaia Jäppinen, noted that this petition and the stand taken towards it, would in no way harm or discredit Tallinn as Europe’s Capital of Culture in 2011.

“To connect this petition with culture capital is arbitrary and inappropriate,” he said.

In 2006 Tallinn Pride was marred by violence.

15 people were injured after being attacked by groups of skinheads with sticks and stones.

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The Tallinn police tried to alter the parade route in 2007, claiming their presence would infringe the rights of other residents to go about their business.

However, the route was authorised after protests by gay rights activists.

Thousands of locals and tourists watched the parade, which was protected by extra police and private security.

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