Riga City Council will not impose restrictions on March 16 events

  • 2013-03-12

RIGA - The Riga City Council will not impose restrictions on March 16 Latvian Legion Day events this year, LETA was informed by Riga City Council Executive Director Juris Radzevics.

Law enforcement authorities have concluded that March 16 events will not pose any threat to public order or safety this year.

Radzevics emphasized that the Riga City Council does not issue permits for rallies or processions, but the municipality has the right to impose restrictions on such events if they pose threat to safety. The State Police will decide on additional public order and safety measures.

The Security Police do not have any information on possible threats to public order and security on March 16, LETA was informed by Security Police spokeswoman Kristine Apse-Krumina.

However, taking account experience from previous years, when participating in March 16 events are groups that have an opposite view towards Latvian legionnaires and usually gather several hundred supporters, “then we most certainly will be on high alert during the day to prevent any kind of confrontations,” Apse-Krumina said.

Several events commemorating the World War II Latvian Legion will take place in Riga on March 16, as well as several anti-events, LETA learned from the Riga City Council.

At 10 a.m., a service commemorating Latvian Legion members will be held in Dome Church. After that, a procession of "Daugavas Vanagi" members is planned from Dome Church via Riga's Old Town to the Freedom Monument, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Members of the "Gustavs Celmins Center" have also applied for a rally at the ''Laima'' clock on the day.

"Association against Nazism" will lay flowers at the Freedom Monument from 10:15 to 10:45 a.m., and from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. The organization has also applied for a rally at the Freedom Monument from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

LETA also reported, on March 16, 1944, both divisions of the Latvian SS Legion, called up for military service in the German occupation army, engaged in a battle against the Red Army at the Velikaya River in U.S.S.R. territory. Since 1952, the war veterans’ organization “Daugavas Vanagi” commemorates this day as Latvian Legion Day.

Many Latvians, who were forcibly called up to join the Latvian SS Legion, saw the German army as a lesser of two evils. For many of these soldiers, the choice to join the Latvian SS Legion was a result of the brutal Soviet occupation between 1940 and 1941, during which tens of thousands of Latvians were executed or deported to Siberia. Many soldiers naively believed that, if they helped Germany win the war, Latvia might be rewarded with independence or autonomy.

Latvian Legion Day is an unofficial holiday.

As reported, the Riga City Council banned all March 16 events last year. The court, however, lifted these bans and all events were held as planned.

The March 16 Latvian Legion Day is the day of remembrance of Latvian Legionnaires. Latvian Legion Day was established in exile by “Daugavas Vanagi.” March 16 was chosen as the most appropriate date because on March 16, 1944 both divisions of the Latvian Legion fought alongside for the first time against the Red Army. It was the only battle in World War II led solely by Latvian commanders.