A group representing sexual minorities in Latvia has appealed a decision by Rīga officials to ban a planned May 16 march in the city’s downtown.
Mozaīka, a Rīga-based organization advocating for the rights of gays, lesbian, bisexuals and transgender people, has been organizing the Baltic Friendship Days event. The march was scheduled to begin at noon in the Vērmaņdārzs park and then move into surrounding streets.
Mozaīka filed its appeal May 14 with the Administrative District Court in Rīga asking it to overturn a decision by the Rīga City Council’s Commission on Meetings, Marches and Demonstrations disallowing the parade.
The city commission initially approved the march on May 8, but repealed its decision on May 14 citing security concerns.
“We believe this decision to be unlawful, without any legal justification whatsoever, and based on political pressure,” Mozaīka said in a press release.
The commission suggested Mozaīka could hold the march just in the park without going into surrounding streets, or along 11th November Shoreline. Mozaīka, however, rejected the alternatives, arguing the commission’s decision “have no legal justification.”
Numerous conservative politicians and religious leaders protested the commission’s initial approval of the march. In an open letter to Rīga Mayor Jānis Birks, the Rev. Jānis Šmits on May 12 wrote that the commission’s approval was illegal and against the wishes of the majority of city residents. He called on the mayor to overturn the decision and to sack Rīga City Administrator Andris Grīnbergs. Šmits, a member of the conservative First Party of Latvia (Latvijas Pirmā partija), posed a question to Birks: “In whose interests does the Rīga council work—those of 50 amoral homosexuals or those of 1 million Rīga inhabitants?”
Linda Freimane, chair of Mozaīka, said in a statement that the city council had yielded to political pressure.
“All of this foments hatred in Latvia,” she said, “and causes Latvia to become an object of mockery among other European countries.”
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