Regretfully, no society can be inoculated from uneducated cretins and small-minded fools, the type that turned out en masse on July 22 in downtown Riga to heckle, taunt and humiliate a group of gay and lesbian activists that had gathered there. Bigots and racists will always drift in the underbelly of a democratic society; their complete eradication is futile. But they should be controlled. Apparently, however, many Latvian officials feel otherwise. Demonstrating shameful insouciance, local law enforcement failed to do their utmost to provide security for Saturday's gay pride press conference and church service, which were both marred by fiends who threw eggs and excrement and threatened participants.
At one point anti-gay thugs even walked up freely to gay activists and ripped rainbow-patterned flags from their hands. So much for police's obligation to separate the lions from the Christians.
Sadly, the lackluster police performance was a logical conclusion to an all-around disgusting display of prejudice and ignorance of fundamental human rights. The cowardice of Latvia's political elite reached a new low as, in the face of threats, one politician after another called for the parade to be cancelled. Others simply poured kerosene into the fire with viciously homophobic comments. One group, the National Union of Forces, told media that they would not rule out violence in their protest action; in a normal country, such talk would have warranted action on the part of law enforcement officials.
The onus of responsibility should be placed on Interior Minister Dzintars Jaundzeikars, whose entire system of reasoning is as warped as an old board left out in the rain. From the outset he was unable to hide his personal animosity toward the idea of gays and lesbians meeting in the capital. To boot, he is a member of Latvia's First Party, a group set up by Lutheran ministers who don't hide their homophobia. Arguably, this is precisely the reason why July 22 turned disastrous: handing control over security at a gay and lesbian parade to a member of the gay-loathing Latvia's First Party is akin to entrusting your spare house key to a convicted felon.
In this respect, Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis is complicit in what happened on July 22. He should have known Jaundzeikars would do a shoddy job and called the minister to the carpet beforehand. In a mature democracy, politicians preach tolerance and do not rationalize about why their country is not ready for such-and-such assembly.
To be sure, no public gathering can be given complete security. If a heckler wants to pelt someone with an egg, rose, or a sack of excrement, all he or she needs is a healthy arm and an accurate throw. There is no fail-safe protection from distant projectiles. All law enforcement can do is arrest the offenders and prosecute them to the full extent of the law. Latvia was certainly vigilant when poor Prince Charles was stricken by a rose in Daugavpils; we will soon see how they pursue hurlers of feces.
Jaundzeikars should be sacked. He is a farmer by profession and milkman by trade; he has no business in the law enforcement industry. We suggest he be sent back to the kolkhoz for some much-needed corrective work.