Monday, May 28, 2012

Some good free speech developments, but keep off the grass!

Some good things seem to be happening in the free speech/free assembly area in Latvia. The Riga City Council has decided that the planned Baltic Pride 2012 march is not a threat to public order and should be permitted. So on Saturday, June 2, members of the LGBT community in Latvia, along with visitors from the other two Baltic countries and supporters from other countries in Europe, will be able to exercise their right to free speech and assembly. There will probably be a hateful, screaming crowd of counterdemonstrators – Latvia is probably one of the most homophobic countries in Europe, at least judging by the kinds of comments on internet portals.
Several diplomats will also take part in Baltic Pride, including the US Ambassador to Latvia Judy Garber and American ambassadors from the other Baltic States. Representatives of the Latvian government will take part in some pride-related events in the days ahead of the march.
It is important for “ straight” or mainstream people to take part in Baltic Pride to show that they, at least, are not part of the problem, not part of the anti-free speech, homophobic and possibly religious fanatic “majority against Baltic Pride” claimed by opponents of the march. For this reason, but mainly because I am a libertarian believer in free speech, I will attend Baltic Pride assuming nothing else gets in the way (I have driving commitments on weekends to resupply my mother-in-law at our summer house).
A slightly disconcerting incident I witnessed was the Riga Municipal Police asking people to leave the banks of the Riga Canal. It was done, I assume, with firm courtesy, but if the city is reneging on its commitment to open up the grass on Riga parks, then it should have explained why. The grass on the slopes, as far as I know, is not a different species than that in some other parks, where careful sitting or picnicking on the grass is not forbidden, or at least tolerated. One of the most absurdly SOVIET things about Riga was the ban on sitting on the grass in all public parks. The only thing the public could enjoy was walking on the sidewalks and sitting on the benches – compared to the openness of park grass areas in most civilized countries.

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