Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Latvian Supreme Court Overturns (Last Year's) March 16 March Ban

In what is rapidly developing into a black comedy, the Latvian Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling upholding last year's ban on a March 16 march to commemorate the Latvian Legion, a controversial military formation largely drafted during the Nazi occupation of Latvia.
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.


TRex said...

While controversial I’m of the opinion that the march should go on, with plenty of supervision. Those in a leadership position should, well...lead! I suspect it would be better for Latvian society at large to operate in the cold light of day than to repress any group regardless of it’s size or stance. As long as there is no hate being spewed or hooligans attempting to highjack the day let it go.

But I forget, there are no leaders in Latvia. At least not of the type that are actually looking out for the countries future, just short term personal interests.

Lingüista said...

I agree with TRex above -- it's much better to have such marches out in the open. Let the counterdemonstrators have their say, let the Latvian veterans have theirs, and let everybody discuss the question to their heart's content -- but out there in the open, where everybody can see them.

TRex said...

It appears that the court lifted the ban yesterday so events will go forward.