Winter of discontent ends

  • 2010-07-28
  • Staff and wire reports

OUT OF LUCK : The grass-roots movement protesting the sad state of the nation was unceremoniously shut down by the police.

RIGA - On the night of July 23, Riga Municipal Police officers dismantled and removed the so-called ‘tent village’ hard luck housing complex from the park-like oasis of grass and pavement opposite the Cabinet of Ministers’ building, bringing an end to the social protest that began on Nov. 30 last winter. Only one person was in residence during the clandestine police operation - the handicapped and homeless Juris Lapsinskis, reports news agency LETA.

A lone protester at night, Lapsinskis was, during the day, joined by two other protesters - Grigorijs Fedjkins and Aleksandrs Tihonovs. There is no trace left standing which would indicate that this was once a hive of bustling revolution, no tents, banners or blazing campfires.

The doomed protest was launched in November by Gints Gaikens, expressing his discontent with the state of the nation, especially with the unemployment problem. As many as 20 others joined him by January in the growing protest, braving freezing temperatures which dropped below minus 20 degrees at times. Momentum slowed as some of the protesters dropped out.

Eventually, Gaikens was offered and accepted a job at Riga Freeport following another demonstration at Riga Town Hall, one in which on a rented crane, he had himself hoisted to just outside Vice Mayor Ainars Slesers’ window demanding a meeting. Slesers happened to be out of the building.

Lapsinskis, the last soldier at the now-dismantled ‘village,’ however, is now ready to set up a tent again, opposite the government building. Mihails, one of Lapsinskis’ supporters, is ready to join him in the protest.
In the morning of July 26, a new campaign was launched to achieve, as Lapsinskis said, a better life for the people of Latvia. Participants in the campaign wish to build a country where residents of Latvia would not have to seek jobs abroad, Mihails proclaimed.

Spurring on the fight, and acting alone, without Lapsinskis or Mihails, an elderly Russian-speaking woman joined in the protest. A few more supporters of the village gathered near the scene, but the total number didn’t go over ten.
With Latvia’s economy still stuck in neutral, there is plenty of kindling to fuel renewed activism by those living on the edge of society.