RIGA - The Riga City Council moved this week to put its foot down on minority school reform protests. The council said it would demand that Russian language school defenders change their planned massive 10-day protest from Esplanade Park in downtown Riga to Uzvaras Park in the city's outskirts, where sufficient security will be secured.
The council also warned that it would not permit the rally to take place if its organizers - MPs Jakovs Pliners and Andris Tolmacovs, both from the left-wing alliance For Human Rights in a United Latvia - failed to meet the municipality's demands, Ivars Maurins, deputy executive director of Riga, said.
Maurins added that in May the city received an application to stage an open-air school goods fair in Esplanade Park in late August-early September.
"Two expansive events in the same place can't be held. Therefore, we will give the green light to the event that was applied for first. The law states that the first gets it," he said.
The City Council said it planned to send a letter to Tolmacovs, the man behind the rallies, recommending that he choose another place for the anti-reform demonstrations.
But Maurins predicted that the Headquarters for the Defense of Russian Schools, or Shtab, would not want to comply.
Furthermore, a rally of some 30,000 people in Uzvaras Park on Sept. 1 - one organized by Russian school defenders - is also under danger of being rejected. The law requires that organizers of such events ensure at least two security men per 100 people. But according to Maurins, only 30 people have been hired for Sept. 1.
"That makes just one security guard per 1,000 people. But calculating properly - there must be 600 security men for this event," he noted.
The City Council will also send a letter to Pliners requesting the proper amount of security accompanied by a list naming all of the security guards hired for the event.
"No such list - sorry, no approval," said Maurins.
Pliners told the Baltic News Service that before he received any formal documents he could not tell what steps he would take. He noted, however, that the open-air school goods fair and the protest would not pose a conflict together.
The participating MPs filed their applications with the Riga City Council on Aug. 9, having previously told reporters that they would complain to the court if their applications were turned down.
The education reform envisages that students at schools of national minorities will be required to learn 60 percent of their subjects in Latvian - starting in grade 10 - as of this fall. This leaves 40 percent of the school curriculum to be learned in the students' native tongue.