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. . .