City rains on gay pride parade

  • 2005-07-20
  • By TBT staff, RIGA

RIGA - After Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis expressed concern over possible public disorder during the gay, lesbian and bisexual parade scheduled for July 23, Riga City Executive Director Eriks Skapars promised to revoke the permit granted to march, the Riga City Council said.

Defending their decision, City Council officials said it was necessary to take all measures to prevent any public disorder and protect the population.

The permit to organize a gay parade was issued earlier this summer after passing all necessary approvals. However, Riga officials have decided to revoke the permit since the event has already agitated the public and various radical organizations have threatened to take action against it. The City Council spokesman mentioned Klubs 415 as one such organization, since the club announced plans to organize a demonstration protesting the gay parade.

When asked to specify if the City Council had received any information about possible disorder, spokesperson Ugis Vidauskis said that the decision was made on the basis of concerns expressed by the prime minister. "We are to a great extent relying on our prime minister -- if he does have such information," he said.

The decision has also been influenced by recent "racist attacks by extremists" on foreign citizens. "Tolerance of sexual minorities is also very low in Latvia," the spokesman said.

Officials have asked the Riga municipal police to make sure that all possible signs of intolerance to ethnic, racial, sexual or other minorities are eradicated.

Skapars asked that his decision be viewed as a security concern and not as discrimination against sexual minorities.

The radical organization National Power Unity also intends to block the gay parade.

This would have been the first gay parade in Latvia. As part of the event, a conference on homosexuality, human rights and religion, a church service and shows in popular Latvian gay clubs have been scheduled and will most likely continue.

Representatives from neighboring countries -- Sweden, Russia, Lithuania, Estonia and Finland -- are also expected to come to the festival in Riga.