The Supreme Court ruling comes shortly after the Riga city authorities, under a new mayor from a different political party (Nils Ušakovs of Harmony Center) banned all activities near the Freedom Monument on March 16. A march to commemorate the Legion with some surviving legionnaires (many in their late 80s) was planned, accompanied by nationalist youth organizations. Two so-called anti-fascist groups had also planned counter-demonstrations, alleging that the march by former Waffen-SS soldiers (most of them conscripted) represented a " revival of Nazism" in Latvia and also raising the issue of the participation of some persons, later members of the Legion, who had allegedly taken part in actions agains civilians and Jews as members of police batallions.
The court ruling places the new mayor (elected in June, 2009) in an awkward position, since his ban was based on similar arguments, claims that law enforcement agencies fear disorder, etc. Even the Minister of Interior Linda Murniece, who is in charge of Latvia's police and other internal security agencies, has said there is no basis for the ban. It will also be appealed by this year's organizers. Last year's ban was imposed by mayor Jānis Birks of the nationalist Fatherland and Freedom Party.
Many Latvian politicians regard the Legionnaire commemoration as an international embarassment for Latvia, since it is easy to make an association between fighting on the German side and Nazism without understanding the forces at work on the Latvian nation at the time.
Nazi hunter Ephraim Zuroff will also be in Riga at a conference organized by one of the "anti-fascist" groups, and he would do well to look into the motives of those Jews who became concentration camp security guards or KAPOS. In Nazi-organized ghettos, the occupiers also formed a Judenrat or Jewish Council, in which some Jews served thinking this would make their lot better. People can end up on the wrong side for what they subjectively thought were the right reasons under extremely stressful and chaotic conditions.
It is time for Nils to lift the ban or look the fool. With enough police (and last year, there were more than enough when the whole event took place anyway, in defiance) there should be little or no trouble.