Latvian Pride marchers ‘fenced off’ for own good

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The Latvian government has advised that next months gay pride event should be held in a fenced of area to avoid confrontation.

Latvian Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis and Integration Minister Oskars Kastens have both said that next month’s Riga Pride and March for Equality should take place in an enclosed park.

On Wednesday, Mr. Kastens told reporters that the best way to avoid violent scenes would for the event to be held within the fenced-off Vermanes Park where any counter demonstration could be contained.

In 2006 gay campaigners were attacked with eggs and bags of excrement and left feeling under siege by protesters when they quietly celebrated Riga Pride.

The municipal authorities in Riga said that the event would be cancelled to avoid public disorder after Christians, nationalists and neo-Nazis threatened the parade with violence and a counter march.

In April a court ruled that the decision to ban a the 2006 Pride march was illegal.

Pride London twinned with Riga Pride in 2007 as a sign of solidarity and the Mayor of Riga said he was ashamed at the events in 2006.

Aiga Grisane, a lawyer representing Latvian gay rights group Mozaika said that the court decision:

“Clearly states that even if the security risks are real and significant, the City Council has to do all within their powers to find a solution for the march which satisfies both the organisers and the police”.

“We believe that this is purposeful policy on the part of the First Party of Latvia/Latvia’s Way (LPP/LC), which the minister represents, and that this policy has been pursued ever since the 2006 parliamentary election campaign,”

“It is very ironic that the government has entrusted the issue of promoting tolerance in society to a minister who represents Latvia’s most intolerant political party.

“We believe that this strategy is dangerous, because it splits society, promotes various manifestations of hatred and, at the end of the day, creates even greater public distrust in the country’s political and governing structures.”

Male homosexuality was considered a criminal offence and a mental illness in Latvia during the Soviet period.

In 1992, soon after Latvia regained independence from the USSR, homosexuality was decriminalised.

Last month The Mayors of Riga in Latvia and Tallinn in Estonia 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.