MYPLACE researcher Liga Rudzite from our Latvian team on the recent Pride march in Riga, nad the reactions of authorities and protesters.
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Pride is a very hot issue in Latvia, triggering heated discussions not only but especially around the time of Pride. The object of those discussions is not the question of someone being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, but whether this should be expressed in public. The most popular argument that one’s sexuality should not be brought to the streets has been prevalent in nearly all parts of society since hostile responses of some members of Latvian society to Pride in 2005, but especially after 2006, when participants of Pride march were attacked by activists of No-pride movement making them seek refuge in an Anglican church. In order to combine effort and increase safety, Pride organizers from all Baltic states decided to hold a joint Baltic Pride taking place each year in a different Baltic country. This year Pride movement was brought to the streets of Riga, holding a 4 day Baltic Pride event from May 31st to June 2nd.
Baltic Pride Riga 2012 was organized by the Latvian Association of LGBT and their friends “Mozaika” in cooperation with Lithuanian Gay League, Tolerant Your Association, Estonian Gay Youth and a worldwide human rights organization Amnesty International. This year’s Pride was a mixture of various open to public events on LGBT topics (lectures, discussions, film screenings), concluding with a Pride march and rally “Make some noise for human rights” on Saturday, June 2nd.
Baltic Pride turned out much more peaceful than expected. Discussions both on public TV, in newspapers and Internet media were still very heated and full with very controversial slogans and ideas, but several of the Latvian opinion leaders stated their support for human rights, including rights of LGBT and called for people to be tolerant and respectful. Opening event of the Baltic Pride was joined by the Minister of Welfare of Latvia Ilze Viņķele and Mayor of Riga Nils Ušakov. All of the events were attended by and supported by International LGBT and human rights activists. Ambassador of the USA to Latvia Judith G. Garber was present in some of the events and gave a speech during the rally.
Twitter account of the organization Mozaika wished everyone a happy and safe Pride, which was a concern of everybody in and outside of the Pride organization. Police forces were prepared for confrontations, there were special fully armed police units present and visible both on the street of the march and around the area of the rally. It seemed there were more police officers than protesters.
Around 400 people took part in the march. They were met by a few sparse protest groups. Protesters were mostly demonstrating rude gestures and booing marchers. Some wore masks of pigs and held up posters saying that Latvia is dying out. One person tried to throw raw eggs at Pride participants, but was immediately arrested by police.
All in all the reaction of the public both in the streets around the march and in media were much less hostile than the years before and probably less hostile than expected. Most likely the question of whether sexuality should be celebrated publically still is a question triggering heated discussions, these discussions were kept off the streets this year and at least until 2015 when Baltic Pride should once again be held in Riga.