Gay rights campaigners hail decision not to ban pride event in Riga as a ‘sign of change’
Authorities in Latvia say they will not ban Baltic Pride, despite a crackdown on LGBT rights and attacks on marches across eastern Europe.
Riga City Council has told organizers that the Mozaika pride march on 2 June poses no threat to public safety and there is, therefore, no reason not to allow it.
The pride event has been banned almost every year, with organizers having to use the courts to fight the decision.
Juris Lavrikovs, of LGBT campaign group ILGA-Europe, told Gay Star News it is a positive sign of change in the region.
He said: ‘This is a very significant change in the attitudes of the authorities in Riga particularly, because it’s one of the first occasions when the city didn’t ban pride.’
This year’s parade will start in Gertrudes Street and end in Vermanes Darzs Park, followed by a rally entitled Make Some Noise for Human Rights.
Lavrikovs says the decision to hold the pride march in a prominent location in the city center is an ‘encouraging symbol’ for both the LGBT community and authorities.
‘Usually pride is held in an extremely small place, completely separate from passers-by,’ he explained.
‘But this year, the route is being extended and there are a lot of negotiations with the police to make the event more accessible. This is a huge progression and it’s very significant for the country and the region.’
He added: ‘Having visibility changes perceptions and while there will no doubt be protests against the march, hopefully this is a sign of change.’
However, Lavrikovs said it was ‘cautious optimism’ and there is still concern over the spread of anti-gay discrimination in eastern European countries, with more and more pride events forced to cancel and laws criminalizing support for LGBT rights passed by governments.
Pride in Kiev, Ukraine, was cancelled on Sunday (20 May) amid fear of attack from far right football hooligans.
Svyatoslav Sheremet, one of the organizers of the event, was later beaten by thugs and an LGBT photography exhibition was vandalized by homophobes on 19 May.
The Ukraine has joined Russia, Moldova, Hungary, Latvia and Lithuania in discussing adopting national and regional laws to forbid publicly expressing support for LGBT people’s human rights.
by Matthew Jenkin
Source – Gay Star News