Friday, January 16, 2009

"Another Latvia" bans picketing in Riga's Old Town

The Riga City Council has denied permits for two politically-oriented gatherings in Riga's Old Town, the site of recent street riots against the government and parliament (Saeima) that saw windows smashed, police vehicles overturned and stones thrown at the police.
A group calling itself the "Action Party"(Rīcības Partija) and headed by formed Euroskeptic Normunds Grostiņš, called for a gathering on Saturday, January 17 at the Riga Castle (the "official"but ramshackle residence of the Latvian president) followed by a march to the Saeima. The Action Party wants the present government replaced by a cabinet of non-political professionals. Their permit was denied but the group has appealed to the courts.
Another rally was planned by a student group, also near the Riga Castle, on Sunday, January 18. It has apparently cancelled its plans.
There are comments and appeals circulating on the internet asking people to defy the ban on gatherings in the Old Town and hinting at a repeat of the January 13 disorders if the police attempt to disperse or interfere with any unsanctioned public meetings.
These bans on free expression (even as precautions against more violence) are in the spirit of the repressive (and scared, from the government's viewpoint) "another Latvia" to which Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis said the country had awakened following a night of rioting.
Unfortunately, it appears that more confrontations are inevitable -- certain parts of society have had a taste of actively fighing authority and there is some justification for at least civil disobedience and resistance to bans on free expression. It is not a good path of development, but unavoidable and largely to be blamed on the pig-headed, deaf and corrupt political elite of this country.


Michael said...

In this climate banning protests is the worst possible course of action.
Properly controlled, I doubt there would have been much trouble on Tuesday night. It's not like the government didn't have prior notice of what might take place.

N.R. said...

The Economist Māris Zanders has hinted in a radio speech, of a possible proof that the passive behavior of police was planned and directly ordered by the government.

G K said...

Sorry, but rubbish, Juris; and I think you are well aware that no law or international treaty grants an absolute right to hold an assembly in a particular place, or particular time - those may be regulated.

Blanket ban of assembly in Old Town would, of course, be wrong and unlawful, and even ban on particular kind of gatherings would, I think. No such ban has been established, public comments of officials proposing to ban particular kind of gatherings notwithstanding.

"There are comments and appeals circulating on the internet asking people to defy the ban on gatherings..."

Well, write the whole truth then, so to speak: your highly irresponsible employer LETA disseminated yesterday a "news" article, 80% of which quotes verbatim mad ravings of presumable rioters, including appeal to (my translation) "go into streets, and to vandalise what needs to be vandalised". There was a date in the rioters "press release" - the day of proposed demo, January 18,- only the precise time of the day wasn't there.


Maris Zanders and other commentators can not continue trying to sit on two horses at the same time: criticising and conjuring up conspiracy theories about "evil government's" involvement in riots in order to discredit their "civil disobedience", while their employer disseminates "press releases" of presumable rioters.

Anonymous said...

Seems like a nice comprimise would be for the protesters to meet at the homes of the politicians. This would minimize vandalism to unrelated small businesses and, should the missles hurled graduate from rocks to Molotov cocktail, offer the opportunity for some nice mid-winter sashlik. After all, they are quasi-public places insofar as they were paid for with money stolen from the citiens of Latvia.