Questions over police behaviour at Riga Pride
Members of the European, Danish and Swedish parliaments have criticised the civic authorities in Riga over the way this year’s Pride event was handled.
The Latvian capital was host to a 300-strong gay rights demonstration last weekend. More than 400 counter-protestors were kept back by police.
An alliance of international participants in Riga Pride wrote to the city’s authorities earlier this week.
Among them were MEPs Sophie In’t Veld and Helene Goudin, two Danish MPs, a member of the Swedish Parliament, members of Amnesty International, the European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association and gay rights groups from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Estonia and Lithuania.
“The aim of the march was to provide visibility to the LGBT community in Latvia and give the community the opportunity to convey their messages and demands to the general public,” they wrote.
“Unfortunately the way the police arranged the security measures and acted at the entrance point to the territory allocated to the march means that the participants were isolated and did not have an opportunity to express their messages to the general public.”
The group claims that police stopped people wanting to join the march to ask them their sexual orientation, and only allowed lesbian and gay people to take part.
They also said that an illegal counter-demo was allowed to go ahead and that it intimidated the Pride participants.
“We hope that next year Riga City Council and the Latvian Police find the balanced arrangements without excessive restrictions and isolation which will enable easier and wider access for those willing to take part in the march and their greater visibility,” the wrote.
“We also hope that at the next year’s March for Equality there will be some prominent Latvian politicians present.
“One of the aims of the March for Equality is to reduce prejudice and counter the hate speech towards LGBT people and the Latvian politicians can play very important role in achieving those goals.
“We are happy to offer our advice and expertise to the Riga City Council and the Latvian Police to ensure that next year this event is less restricted, more visible and safe.”
Although Riga Pride went ahead without any violence, church leaders and politicians in Latvia expressed deeply homophobic views in the run up to the event.
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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.
Saturday’s Pride event saw more than 400 protesters on the streets, compared with 300 Pride participants.
“A homosexual march is not an innocent and colourful rainbow,” a group of six MPs claimed earlier this week.
“It is a bomb explosion with poisonous gases which people will breathe long after the event itself. People will not even notice how they poison and change their minds and their bodies.”
They are all members of Latvia First Party, which is in an electoral pact with the Latvian Way party. Together they have ten of the 100 seats in the Latvian parliament. They are minor partners in the country’s coalition government.
Latvia joined the EU in 2004.