Baltic Pride march gets green light in Latvia

The Baltic Pride march due to take place on Saturday 16 May in Riga, Latvia, will go ahead after a ban against the event was lifted on Friday morning. Riga City Council (RCC) had revoked permission for the march, organized by the Latvian organization Mozaika, the Lithuanian Gay League, and Estonian Gay Youth, on Thursday. The organizers made an injunction to the court and were granted a hearing on Friday at 10am at Riga’s Municipal Court, which overturned the decision to ban the march. Amnesty International has welcomed the decision to allow the march. “We are happy that the rule of law has prevailed,” said Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Deputy Director David Diaz-Jogeix, speaking from Riga. “We are confident the Latvian authorities will ensure the right to freedom of assembly and expression in tomorrow’s Baltic pride, according to Latvia’s international and european human rights obligations”. Over 70 Amnesty International activists from 23 European countries are intending to travel to Riga to participate in the march and related events. 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. Other planned Pride events in Russia and the Ukraine this weekend have 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 in Moscow planned 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 Moscow march is planned to coincide with the Eurovision Song Contest final, which is also 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.