Baltic Pride march banned in Latvia

The planned Baltic Pride march due to take place on Saturday in Riga, Latvia, has been banned. Riga City Council (RCC) revoked permission for the march, organized by the Latvian organization Mozaika, the Lithuanian Gay League, and Estonian Gay Youth.

The organizers have complained to the courts and have been granted a hearing at 10am on Friday to allow the march to go ahead as originally planned.

The proposed Baltic Pride march was authorised by the RCC’s Commission
on Meetings, Marches and Demonstrations on 8 May, following a series of
agreements between the organisers, the City Council and the police on
the march’s venue and the necessary security arrangements.

On Wednesday, a majority of Riga’s City Council members signed an open letter to the Executive Director of the City Council, Andris Grinbergs, calling on him to revoke permission for the march on the grounds that it was offensive to public decency and posed a threat to public security.  

The Council members stated that if the Executive Director did not revoke permission by 4pm on 14 May, they would seek to overrule the decision through a vote in the City Council.

Amnesty International condemned the decision not to allow the march.

“This is a disgraceful move by the Riga City Council,” said Nicola Duckworth, Amnesty International’s Director of the Europe and Central Asia programme. “The decision is unlawful under Latvian law and violates the rights of Baltic LGBT people to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

“The Council should immediately reverse its decision and allow the march. Amnesty International fully supports the legal challenge by the organizers.”

Over 70 Amnesty International activists from 23 European countries are intending to travel to Riga to participate in the march and related events.

Planned Pride events in Russia and the Ukraine have also been banned.

A march planned for Saturday in Moscow, Russia, has been banned for the fourth year running. A spokesperson for Moscow’s mayor is reported to have said that organizers of LGBT parades are seeking “not only to destroy moral pillars of our society but also deliberately provoke disorder, which would threaten the lives and security of Muscovites and guests of the city.”

Members of the LGBT movement are threatening to hold their action on May 16 regardless of whether they get permission or not. The Moscow government is declaring that no gay parades have been and will be held in Moscow.

The march is planned to coincide with the Eurovision Song Contest final, which is taking place in Moscow on Saturday. The Dutch entrant to the competition, pop singer Gordon, has said that he will refuse to take the stage if Russian police violently suppress the march.

Municipal authorities in Mykolayiv City, Ukraine, have banned LGBT groups from holding public events as part of a “Rainbow spring 2009” festival for the second year running. The organizers had planned to mark International Day Against Homophobia on Sunday, 17 May.

The municipal authorities, in a message to the Mykolayiv Association of Gays, Lesbians and Bisexuals, LiGA, said that “holding of this event creates the danger of social unrest; it would undermine peace and the public order and would result in massive clashes and conflicts.”

The Central Administrative Court of Mykolaiyv delivered their judgement upholding the banning of the Rainbow Spring Festival at midday on Thursday.

“These bans demonstrate a clear lack of understanding of the obligations of the state and the local authorities to protect and respect the right to freedom of expression of all people, including those holding minority views,” said Nicola Duckworth.