Saturday, July 22, 2006

Riga's Gay Pride and Latvia's Shame, Part II

As the world is going to hell--i.e., Israeli fundamentalists bomb Lebanon and warn of a ground invasion in a world in which far too many people foolishly view war as a means of lasting peace; and Ukrainian politicians continue to fuck over the people of Ukraine due to their meakness (Yushchenko), their tactical stupidity (Our Ukaine), their stubbornness (Yushchenko, Our Ukraine), their lack of vision and will (Yushchenko) or of moral compass (Moroz, Regions, but also Our Ukraine's upper eschelons), or all of these things (all of them); and claims about electoral fraud in Mexico get burried and laughed at as quickly as did the claims of fraud in Ohio 2004--things in Riga have to make me feel a bit more gloomy today. . .

The Issue of the Gay Pride Parade in Riga (go to this site for some general info):

Here is something from an email I just sent:

Well, have you heard anything about the issues surrounding a march for Gay Pride here in Riga? It was supposed to happen today, but the city council did not approve the permit for the march, claiming not that it was opposed in principle to a Gay Pride Parade, but that it was going to be too dangerous--last year, while 40 or so people marched in the parade, many more people showed up to throw insults and eggs and tomatoes at the marchers, and the counter-demonstrators pledged to return this year to do much worse than last year. So the city claimed that they could not guarantee the marchers' their saftey, said that the march was too dangerous, and one politician said that to march would be suicidal.

The claim that they can not provide security is, of course, completely bullshit. Every May, when Latvians and Latvian-friendly non-Latvians in Latvia celebrate the day the country (more or less) declared its independence form the USSR in 1990, mostly Russian counter-demonstrators show up and hurl insults and the occasional egg or tomatoe at the those celebrating. So, this past May major counter-demonstrations against Latvia's indepedence from the USSR were planned for the site where Latvians gather for their independence celebration (at Freedom Square), and the city council ensured that a massive cordon of police encircled the celebrants, protecting and seperating them from the counter-demonstrators. I guess there was a bit of violence this past May.

So, the claim by the city council that they could not protect a Gay Pride march is bogus. They could have--they just lacked the political will to do so, and this lack of political will betrays the prejudices and double standards of those in office, or the prejudices of the fellow party members and electorate of those in office. Last year, the city allowed the Gay Pride Parade to take place, but then faced a storm of criticism from portions of the Latvian press, the city government, and from the parliament and certain political parties. Calls were made for the resignations of members of the city government and even of some MPs. That many people in Latvia--no surprise--hold anti-gay attitudes here. (Read here what I wrote about Gay Pride in Riga last year; I got here one week or so after it was held.)

So this year, since there was no parade, the counter-demonstrators showed up in front of the Hotel Latvia, where events were to be held after the parade. The counter-demonstrators were there in front of the hotel today, heckling those who tried to enter and their supporters. The men that were counter-demonstrating against GLBTs were extremely angry and fiercely violent. Some guys charged at those trying to get into the hotel and the police jumped in to stop them. It was an angry, violent, disgusting scene--not because of the GLBTs, of course, but because of the intolerant ones.

But the point is that the city provided some security at the hotel. . .but they had to. Hotel Latvia is a prestigious (I think 4 star) hotel where foreign businessmen, diplomats and tourists stay. . .

They could have done so for a parade.

One hopeful comment, though: there were those in the press and in politics here who complained bitterly that all of this stood out against EUropean values and that they planned to take the decision of the city council to some EUropean court (I forget which), and I had dinner tonight with a bunch of fifty-something Latvians who I would never have expected to have held tolerant views about GLBTs, but who all agreed that allowing a march is part of the meaning of democracy. And oh, some pundits went so far as to warn that such ongoing intolerance could be grounds for throwing Latvia out of the EU. There are plenty here that would be all too happy if that happened (go here and look at the second photograph), but that is another issue. It is of course quite unlikely that Latvia would get the boot over a gay pride parade; more likely that the EU will become more tolerant of intolerance, as places the world over seem to be becoming these days (see this here for what I think of that).

I will try to get some video up of the confrontation in front of the Hotel in the next day or two. . .


Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention Hezbollah's launching of missiles against Israeli towns in your list of reasons why the world was going to hell. Admittedly, your list was not presented as a comprehensive one, so I thought I'd add it in, to help fill in the blank.

Stefan said...

I think that it may be you who is missing on some crucial points, at least from my perspective.

First, this recent round of the War in the Middle East had its start this way: Hezbollah captured 2 Israeli soldiers, in the process, however, they also killed 8. Israel responded by bombarding Southern Lebanon (killing in just the first day 47 civilians, injuring over 100) and flexing its muscles by declaring Hezbollah's actions an act of war--though Israel reserves the right to kill and kidnap at will, but more on that in a moment. Hezbollah then fired its missiles, flexing its own muscles and declaring that it is ready for war with Israel--and oh, 1 civilian was killed and 29 were wounded.

It is important to know the motivation for the capturing of the soldiers, and also, that another Israeli soldier was captured in Gaza earlier. The earlier kidnapping in Gaza was in retaliation for Israel's kidnapping of a Palestinian doctor and his brother. Human rights groups active in Palestine frequently attest to attacks and pressure on doctors and families. Medics entering zones of combat--i.e., areas where, more often than not, Israeli soldiers are firing on children or teens with rocks, or are opening fire when searching someone's home--have been fired upon. I have a close, personal friend who witnessed a Palestinian ambulance fired upon in the West Bank as it attempted to enter a combat zone.

Of course, the doctors are terrorists or terrorist-sympathizers, the ambulance was carrying militants, and all the regular BS--though you may not think it is BS.

There are hundreds of missing people from the Palestinian Authority and Lebanon that their Arab families and human rights organizations suspect are being held in Israel. The kidnapping and disappearances have been going on for a very long time, but since those who are disappeared are Arab, they go unnoticed in the West. The world pays attention when three Israeli soldiers are kidnapped. And fundamentalists in Israel go bananas.

THERE IS an Israeli opposition to this senseless bombardment.

Israel’s response to the capture of 2 Israeli soldiers was disproportionate and contemptuous of innocent lives.

This is an act of revenge that reveals how badly fundamentalist leaders within the Israeli government wanted a pretext—any pretext—to escalate conflict in the Middle East and to test their ability to do things their own way. It is also a symptom of the effect of US foreign policy in the region, which has, far from its stated goals, created tremendous instability.

These actions will not stop Hezbollah. Israel has already killed close to 400 civilians, wounded over 1,000, and put on the move 900,000 in barely 2 weeks, quickly surpassing the carnage of suicide bombings in Israel in the past few years.

At the heart of the matter is the Israeli policy toward the Palestinians, as it always ever has been, and of US support of Israel and its foreign policy in the Middle East in general.

But I doubt I have been convincing as far as you are concerned.