Saturday, May 16, 2009

Baltic Pride takes place with no problems

The Baltic Pride march took place in Riga on May 16 with almost no problems. The active counter demonstrators were just a little more in number than the marchers. The Pride march went out on a downtown street, though cordoned off by police. An interesting observation, not in the video as I edited it, was a scene at one street crossing passed by the march where there were perhaps 150 people simply watching, expressing no negative emotions. Maybe there is a seed of tolerance, though judging by the hysterical and hateful comments in the portals (, this is still a country with a huge element of post-soviet, mindless neanderthals.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Administrative Court overrules Pride ban -- will God take vengeance?

The Administrative Court has overturned a ban on holding the Baltic Pride event and march in a park in downtown Rīga. The decision was expected based on earlier cases and European Court of Human Rights practice/
Catholic Cardinal Jānis Pujats, Reverent Jānis Šmits and a representative of the anti-gay organization No Pride petitioned the court to be heard as interested parties but their petitions were rejected.
Representatives of the City of Riga could give no specific reasons for overturning their earlier permit for the Pride event. Lawyers for the LGBT organization Mozaika, who are organizing the event, cited press reports and a letter from 34 members of the Riga City Council (RCC) as evidence that the suspension of their rights of speech and assembly was based on political pressure and said that any other unpopular minority could suffer the same fate.
Reverend Šmits, leaving the courtroom after his petition was declined, is reported to have said: God will take vengeance.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Riga City Council restricts everyone's freedom

I think one can look at the ban on the planned  Baltic Pride in Riga as a direct attack on the freedom of choice of everyone in Latvia, regardless of their feelings about gay rights. In fact, one could paste over the issue with asterisks to make the point more directly. Say, the Riga City Council has banned ********.  No one will ever know what ******** is, because it is banned. Citizens no longer have the choice or option to know what ******** is.
Of course, almost everyone knows that the Pride march has been banned, but the effect of this is that no one has the individual freedom to chose to 1) attend and support 2) watch from curiousity 3) go and protest or 4) ignore the whole thing.  That means that everyone' s freedom has been diminished by the actions of an allegedly democratic city government.
We forget too often that the other side of the freedom of speech and assembly is the right of all adult people to freely pick and choose their "informational environment" from a range of choices that is not limited by state interference.
Banning the Baltic Pride in Riga directly violates the specific right to free speech and assembly of the LGBT community and organizations, whose causes may be of no interest to many other Latvians. But the ban also diminishes everyone' s freedom of choice and opens the way for the local and national governments to take even more choices away from the people. First we say you shall not be informed about ********. Next it will be ########.  Does anyone, other than the elected products of a warped homo-postsovieticus society want this?

Riga Baltic Pride effectively banned

The Baltic Pride march and public gathering, scheduled for May 16 in and near a park in downtown Riga, has effectively been banned by the city authorities. Technically, a gathering is still allowed at on the November 11 riverside road, where it was held last year and, in fact, would cause a greater disruption of through traffic than by cordoning off two streets for 30 minutes.
Two religious leaders Cardinal Pujats and Rev. Jānis Šmits were present at the Riga commission hearing (called to reconsider the permit granted to the Baltic Pride organizers). It is unclear whether they were allowed to attend the hearing, but both have demanded that any public activities by LGBT people be forbidden and condemned as immoral.
Mozaika, the Latvian LGBT organization sponsoring the event has started legal proceedings to overturn the commission's reversal of its earlier ruling. The second hearing was called after 34 out of 60 Riga City council deputies signed a letter demanding that the march permit be rescinded, citing public order (blocked streets) and "public morals". Several radical nationalist organizations have called for counterdemonstrations, both against the LGBT event and as a general protest against political and economic conditions in Latvia (apparently in an effort to gain attention on the assumption that the Baltic Pride could draw large crowds of curious and, to some extent, skeptical and hostile/to the gay event/ onlookers).
My take: this place gets more and more hopeless as democratic elections for local government approach and the most blatantly anti-democratic, authoritarian cryptofascist politicians make the most of this.
Lots of people will write how homophobic this is. OK, it is. What worries me as a heterosexual is that it is also freedom-of-speech-phobic or simply freedomphobic. And that affects all of us. Unlike sexual orientation, freedomphobia can spread and has spread in Latvia, but homo postsovieticus doesn't see that, won't see that and is happy and proud of not seeing that.
Time for an Ignorance Pride -- but hey, it has been going on for years!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

More on efforts to ban Baltic Pride, neo-nazi re-arrested

The Riga City Council has succeeded in getting a re-hearing of whether the Baltic Pride march and public gathering should be allowed on May 16. The responsible commission will be meeting on Thurday, May 14. I comment this in the video.
Also, the Latvian Security Police have detained a young neo-Nazi for publishing what they call hateful, racist and homophobic comments on internet portals in Latvia. Again, it is a pure freedom of expression issue, just like the Nazi march in Skokie, Illinois in the US in the 1970s. One can find this guy's remarks repulsive, but that does not justify arresting him. He writes under the nickname Fenikss and should be freed with all so-called hate speech charges dropped. Fenikss was already detained once late last year and released.
Or may 34 members of the Riga City Council should turn themselves in along with the crypotfascist Reverend Janis Smits for writing hate speech about the Baltic Pride? :)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Riga city councilors ask that Baltic Pride be banned

More than 30 Riga city councilors (Riga, population around 800 000, has 60 council seats, probably the largest number of any municipality in the world) have signed a letter asking that the committee that approved a planned May 16  Baltic Pride March rescind the permit.
The reasons: 1) it would cost too much in police resources and street closures in times of economic crisis 2) a public gathering of LGBT persons is a threat to the morals and virtue of the city.
Two prominent signers of the letter were councilwoman Helmi Stalte, a member of Latvia's Liv (Finno-Ugric speaking) minority, and Ludvigs Almers, a clergyman.

My video thoughts on this:

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Confusion about free speech rights in Latvia

This is a video commentary I made on the confused and inconsistent application of the freedom of speech and assembly in Latvia after the events on May 9 and the upcoming Baltic Pride (as well as the March 16 event to commemorate the Latvian Legion).

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The "usual" call for banning free speech and assembly

As the spring comes around, so does activity by the gay community (LGBT -- lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual, to be accurate) in Latvia, this year in the form of a Baltic Pride planned for Riga on May 16 as part of the annual "Friendship Days". This will bring LGBT activists from Estonia and Lithuania to Latvia for the first joint Baltic action.
No permit has yet been granted for the Pride March, which the Latvian organizers Mozaika wanted to hold in Vermanes Park, a central park surrounded by a fence (the 2007 Pride was held there). Last year it was held on a stretch of shore drive along the Daugava River near the Old Town, yet again under heavy police protection and with hundreds of shouting counter demonstrators.
The former head of the Latvian parliament's Human Rights commission, the reverend Jānis Šmits, has asked the Riga authorities to ban the Pride March in an open letter, published in Latvian on the website of Diena, but translated and republished here on a pan-European gay rights organization's website.

And here is my video commentary on this: