RIGA - Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis announced on July 31 that he would not demand the resignation of Interior Minister Dzintars Jaundzeikars for the police's failure to prevent clashes during the gay pride festival on July 22. "There are two months left until the parliamentary election, therefore I think that the resignation of the interior minister should not be demanded," Kalvitis said.
The public should voice its feelings toward the event in the elections, he added.
Jaundzeikars' resignation would have meant a collapse for Latvia's fragile ruling coalition. Jaundzeikars is a member of Latvia's First Party.
In the previous 10 days since the violence and protests that marked the festival, the gay rights organization Mozaika and others had been circulating a petition calling for Jaundzeikars' resignation. A counter-petition backed by the New Generation Church, which according to Jaundzeikars' report was involved in the anti-gay protests, and the local Christian radio station was sent out in defense of the minister. (See story on Page 16.)
Linda Freimane, a Mozaika board member, called Kalvitis' decision, "very pragmatic."
"He doesn't want to rock his own chair as he said himself," she said. "I think it's sad not to take a stand for democracy, but I guess that's on [Kalvitis'] conscience."
Freimane said her group had no further plans at present to protest the government's handling of the gay pride festival.
Kalvitis said that he had faulted Jaundzeikars for comments he had made before the festival that, in his words, helped foment an atmosphere of intolerance.
In the meantime, Latvia continues to feel the negative public relations from the July 22 incident. In order to prevent a further erosion of reputation, Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks sent a letter to other state officials urging them to respect the rights of sexual minorities, specifically mentioning the incidents surrounding gay pride festival.
The letter stated that the developments surrounding Riga Pride 2006 had harmed Latvia's image abroad. Pabriks noted some bad publicity in foreign media outlets.
"Ensuring the rights of minorities is one of the basic principles in a democratic country, and it is in our interests to prevent the repetition of similar situations in future," he wrote.
The police detained 14 people throughout the disturbances on July 22. Two criminal cases have begun.
Freimane and other gay pride participants said they were refused protection by the police throughout the day. Maris Sants, the openly gay priest who officiated at a service on the morning of July 22, said he asked police to accompany him to his car from the Stockholm School of Economics, but was refused. "They said they had no orders to do so."
"Some of the anti-gay protesters were distributing booklets to police officers, in an attempt to make the police take their side," Jaundzeikars said in his report. "It was the first time that the police officers had to operate in such a difficult and strained atmosphere."
"The majority of the public perceives the gay pride parade not as a factor contributing to democratic integrity but as an assault on human dignity and moral values, as the propaganda of loose morals," Jaundzeikars said in his report.