New exhibition documents homophobia at Riga Pride

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

A photographic exhibition in Glasgow featuring images from the disrupted Riga Pride 2008 is a “shocking” reminder of the hate, intolerance and violence still existing in Europe.

Amnesty International said that supporters from 30 countries travelled to Riga to support the local Mozaika (“Mosaic”) alliance of LGBT people by marching with them through the streets of the city.

The LGBT community face considerable prejudice in the Baltic states, where the Roman Catholic church and other Christian denominations have considerable political and social influence.

In the run up to this year’s Riga Pride, Cardinal Janis Pujats said homosexuality is against the natural order and, therefore, against the laws of God, and that homosexuals also claim unlawfully to have the rights of a minority.

The event in June passed off peacefully. Police arrested four of an estimated 400 anti-gay protesters, but the threats of violence against the Pride march did not materialise.

British and Swedish human rights advocates and politicians were among the 300 people who took part in the event. City authorities closed off streets and deployed police to keep the groups apart.

The marchers were taken away in buses at the end of the event.

As the new photographic exhibition opens in Glasgow’s Q! Gallery, Amnesty International reported that, in countries including Russia, Lithuania, Poland, Croatia and Estonia, participants in Pride events have faced threats and official hostility.

“They have been jeered at, spat at, and pummeled with bottles, eggs, excrement, and fists by protesters, sometimes while police look on,” the human rights group said.

“Some events are banned outright, in violation of international law, while authorities breach their obligations, claiming security concerns and the violation of what they perceive as spiritual and moral values.”

The “Hate and Pride in Riga” exhibition features images from the May 2008 Pride March.

Amnesty International’s Scottish Programme Director, John Watson, said:

“Pride marches in Scotland are now entirely good natured affairs, with generally good relations with the police and the host communities. It is therefore shocking to see the level of hate, intolerance and violence still existing elsewhere in Europe.

“Amnesty International believes that love is a human right and we will continue to attend Riga Pride until local LGBT people are able to assemble without fear of violence.”

The exhibition will be shown at the Q! Gallery on Glasgow’s Saltmarker until International Human Rights Day, 10th December.

Mozaika has confirmed that Friendship Day 2009 will take place May 15th and May 17th in Riga and invited their Baltic neighbours to join in the fun.

It is thought that Friendship Days will alternate in future years between Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian venues.

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.

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.

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