RIGA 's The Latvian gay and lesbian organizations Ilga and Riga Pride applied to the Riga City Council for permission to parade through Riga's Old Town for Riga Pride 2006 in July.
Representatives of both organizations said they planned only to march through the Old Town, adding that the route was not expected to cross the center of Riga as it did last year and that no church events were planned.
"The aim of the parade is to promote tolerant and understanding attitude towards sexual and other minorities," the organizers said. This year, the organizers will focus on bringing awareness and tolerance to the subject of homosexuality by distributing booklets and holding educational seminars.
"We appeal to the leaders of political, religious and radical organization for tolerance toward our differences and for abstaining from violence during Latvia-Riga Pride 2006," the representatives of the group said.
Meanwhile, the planned parade has already drawn wide response from the public, even before the application was submitted to Riga authorities. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis said people are entitled to the right of assembly in Latvia, but that security concerns were even more important. "I do not think that downtown Riga is the best place to allow such marches," the prime minister said in a television interview.
The Christian-oriented Latvia's First Party and representatives of the church have also spoken against the planned demonstration. The first ever gay and lesbian pride parade was held in Riga last year. Riga City Council originally authorized the march, but later withdrew its approval following criticism from Kalvitis.
After much political and public debate, the court annulled the city's ban and gays and lesbians were able to march along the streets of Riga. Many were shocked, though, at the amount of open opposition expressed by parade attendees. Several radical groups followed the marchers, screaming insults and even throwing eggs. The chaotic scene is the main reason so much concern surrounds this year's planned parade.