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The Siege of Riga

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Latvian gay pride meetings assaulted by fascists

Organized by the No Pride movement, an alliance of Christian fundamentalists, ultra-nationalists, and fascists, mobs of anti-gay extremists attacked Latvian gays and lesbians at several July 22 events scheduled by the Latvian gay-rights group Mozaika after its planned Gay Pride March was banned by the city council in Riga, the nation’s capitol.

In the morning, a service for gays and lesbians at Riga’s Anglican Church was surrounded by “hundreds of anti-gay protesters” who “chanted abuse at the 50 people inside,” Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

“Homosexuals are dirty sinners, they are immoral people and they don’t have a place in normal society,” said Viktors Biese, leader of the National Power Union, a neo-fascist, ultra-nationalist political party.

“We have to stop them now, we can’t wait until they start demanding the right to get married and adopt children,” Biese said, according to AFP.

As the worshippers left the service, they were pelted with bags of liquefied excrement, which broke when they hit the gay church goers.

At a later Mozaika press conference, which some of the excrement-covered gays attended so the press could see and smell them, the building where the press conference was held was also surrounded by a very hostile mob.

Women who finally escorted Gravis to a car, and the car itself, were covered in excrement thrown by the anti-gay demonstrators.

The day’s major event was the Indoor Pride rally, which was hastily scheduled after the Pride March was banned, at a rented conference room on the second floor of the four-star Hotel Reval. Some 250 people attended, including members of the European, Danish, and Swedish parliaments who had come to Riga in a gesture of solidarity with the city’s gay community. A large and hostile mob of several hundred laid siege to the hotel all day.

“They roamed the streets outside the hotel, looking for gays and lesbians to attack,” said Peter Tatchell, a member of the British gay rights group OutRage!, who attended the conference.

“Anyone who looked gay was liable to abuse and assault, even passing tourists,” Tatchell said. “There was only a small police presence outside the Reval Hotel, but the police seemed to stand back and let them terrorize people with impunity. They allowed the anti-gay protestors to completely blockade the hotel entrance. Several innocent guests were assaulted by the mob, on the mere suspicion that they were gay.”

Eggs and bottles were thrown at the targets of the mob’s ire. At one point during the Indoor Pride meeting, an anti-gay group infiltrated the meeting, abusing and threatening participants, tearing up Mozaika posters, and assaulting Rev. Sants. Non-white gays and lesbians were abused as “mixed-race scum.”

Some of the Pride meeting participants were trapped in the hotel by the mob outside for up to seven hours. The hotel management, fearing the mob outside might try to storm the hotel en masse, rushed in armed private security guards and stationed them outside the conference room where the Pride rally was being held. Many of the participants managed to leave the hotel by side entrances, but the Mozaika leaders remained blockaded inside. A taxi carrying Swedish participants in the Pride events from the hotel to the airport was chased by a car that tried to run the taxi off the road.

Nicolas Alexeyev of GayRussia.ru, who was arrested for organizing the May 27 Moscow Pride demonstration that was broken up by police and fascists, was in Riga in solidarity with the Mozaika group. He e-mailed updates on what was happening at the hotel throughout the day. In the afternoon he wrote “This is worse than Moscow. There is total chaos here. The police seem very weak and disorganized. The fascists are able to act at will and Latvia is in the European Union.”

As the siege of the hotel by the mob continued, Mozaika leaders rented a safe room upstairs from the rally to plan next steps and telephone government ministers. They managed to contact the Latvian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Artis Pabriks, who arranged for the deputy prime minister, Aigars Stokenbergs, to come to the hotel and meet with the Mozaika leaders. Stokenbergs eventually arranged for a special bus to come to the hotel and transport the besieged Pride leaders to safety.

A Dutch member of the European Parliament in Riga for the Pride events, Sophie In’t Veld, said the attacks were “putting Europe to the test…We see that some of our European governments are throwing human rights out of the window. I will go back to the European Parliament and will make sure that the Parliament will speak out.”

Amnesty International subsequently issued a statement condemning “the breach of international law” by the Latvian police in failing to protect the lesbians and gays.

The police are under the control of the Interior Minister, Dzintars Jaundbeikars, a member of the Christian fascist First Party, which is part of the country’s governing coalition. Jaundbeikars led opposition to the Pride March for the second year in a row.

Mozaika said later that “police passivity was likely under the explicit or implicit” instructions from Jaundbeikars, and has called for his resignation.

The only untroubled Pride moment of the day was a memorial event at the site of Salaspils Concentration Camp, where some 53,000 Jews and many homosexuals were murdered by the Nazis during World War II.

“We went there to commemorate those who died at Salaspilas, and to make a statement about how close we are now in Latvia to a fascist state, supported by an intolerant and hateful society,” said Mozaika’s Grava. “Our small ceremony was broadcast on Latvian TV that night, including the entire 30 second moment of silence for the death of democracy in Latvia.”

DOUG IRELAND can be reached through his blog, DIRELAND, at http://direland.typepad.com/direland

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Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
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