TALLINN - A group of skinheads violently disrupted a gay pride parade held in Tallinn on Aug. 12, marring a relatively peaceful history of pride parades in the Estonian capital.
Police moved quickly to stop the attack, which occurred on Pikk Jalg Street in the Old Town at about 3:30 p.m. Gay pride participants thanked the officers, who arrested the perpetrators on the spot, with loud applause.
The attack served as the climax to a string of parade disruptions. Kristi Juristo, a parade coordinator, said that one marcher was rushed to a hospital for stitches after being struck by a stone. Skinheads also threw eggs at the participants.
"We are encouraging people to report their injuries to the police," she said, adding that she knew of at least five people that had been hurt. Police reported one Spanish citizen suffered a concussion.
Parade participants met on Sauna Street in front of two well-known gay establishments, X-Baar and Angel, where they were disrupted by a bomb threat.
Once the parade began, a group of about two dozen skinheads threw eggs and spat at participants, while repeatedly chanting "faggot."
By the end of the day, Julia Garanza, spokesperson for the North Police Prefecture, said officers had arrested six people for disturbing the peace.
Meetings of gay and lesbian activists in Riga last month raised an international outcry after police did little to quell violent anti-gay protesters, who were freely throwing rocks, eggs and bags of excrement at participants. Amnesty International has raised similar complaints in a statement condemning police response to the gay pride parade in Tallinn. Local gay pride leaders disagree.
"The police did an excellent job," Juristo said. "Every year we hire private security. But the police were just doing their job. They responded in a matter of minutes."
Several skinheads kept themselves hidden under hooded sweatshirts so as "not to appear in the news."
"[The gays] are imposing themselves on us," an anonymous skinhead said. "What they are doing is illegal."
"God hates fags," said another. When asked if he believed in God, he answered, "No."
"The anti-gay protestors are the same bunch of people who gather to rally near the Bronze Soldier and call themselves Estonian nationalists," Lisette Kampus, a parade spokesperson, told the Baltic News Service, referencing the Russian soldier statue in Tallinn that has become a controversial symbol for many Estonians.
One anti-gay protestor confirmed that his group had also rallied at the Bronze Soldier and handed out flyers that called for its destruction.
About 500 people participated in Tallinn's gay pride parade, including a young group of Estonian anarchists, as well as gay rights activists from Bulgaria and Spain. Maris Sants, an openly gay priest from Latvia who was targeted in several attacks during Riga's gay pride festival, also marched in Tallinn.