Legionnaire march leads to over 20 arrests

  • 2005-03-09
  • By The Baltic Times
RIGA- Police arrested more than 20 protesters when they tried to block a procession of veteran World War II soldiers during their ceremonial march. The soldiers, members of the Latvian Legion who fought for the Nazis during WWII, gather annually around the country's freedom monument to pay respects to fallen members.

This year's event, which has a history of drawing controversy in the media, was especially tense, as members of the Russian nationalist group Motherland, and the Latvian youth nationalist group Klubs 415 both attended.

While attempting to block the march, some protesters, dressed in prison uniforms and wearing the Jewish star of David, yelled: "Latvia is the shame of Europe," and "Fascism will not succeed."

Law enforcement officials were out in large numbers, weary of the scene's potential for violence.

Last year's march was mostly a quiet affair. However this year, many expected the event to be much more heated, due in part to the upcoming May 9 celebrations in Moscow. President Vaira Vike-Freiberga announced in January that she would attend the event, adding that she hoped to voice the Baltic's view of how WWII ended, and the following Soviet occupation.

Vike-Freiberga also asked to move the Latvian Legion's commemoration ceremony from March 16 to Nov. 11, the day officially designated to all war veterans.