■ Vermanes Park in central Riga where
the city's Gay Pride Parade is to be staged on Sunday.
RIGA, June 1, 2007 — Support for Riga Friendship Days
and Gay Pride has come today from the British Ambassador, the Chief of Staff
of the Swedish Navy and an MEP — all hoping for a “celebration’ when the
main event, the parade, takes place in Vermanes Park on Sunday.
But the anti-gay ‘No Pride’ group became a victim of its
own pressure today when demonstrators turned up at the Riga Conference
Centre where the conference, Family Models: Diversity and Equality,
was scheduled to take place.
The Centre cancelled the booking yesterday under pressure
from ‘No Pride’ and the conference, funded by the European Union, went ahead
at a nearby hotel without interruption of distractions.
At a reception this evening in the Reval Hotel, Ian Bond,
the British Ambassador, expressed support for the events over the four-day
“I am more and more confident that Sunday’s parade will
be peaceful,” he said.
He went on to say that the British Government is
committed to addressing the problems faced world-wide by sexual minorities.
“This is a high priority for the Government,” he pointed
out, adding that Foreign Office Minister Ian McCartney had outlined
Britain’s commitment in a
statement on International Day Against Homophobia
Ambassador Bond gave the commitment of the British
Embassy in Riga towards the work done in Latvia by Mozaika, the LGBT NGO who
is coordinating the ‘Pride’ event.
MEP Jean Lambert (Greens), who is one of several elected
to represent London at the European Parliament — and Pride London is
‘twinned’ with Riga — has called for the Latvian authorities to protect all
participants taking part in Riga Pride.
In a statement, Ms. Lambert, a member of the European
Parliament’s ‘Intergroup’ on gay and lesbian rights, pointed out that though
this year’s ‘Pride’ has been declared legal by both the Riga city
authorities and the Latvian government, the last two consecutive years have
been met with violent attacks, there are fears of repeated hostility,
especially following last weekend’s events in Moscow.
“With large numbers of supporters heading from London to
Riga to express solidarity with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender
(LGBT) community, it is vital that the Latvian authorities ensure the march
goes ahead in peace,” she said.
“Human rights must be upheld and valued by the Latvian
Government, as part of everyday life and in 2007, the European Year of Equal
Opportunities, they must reflect the legal status of the demonstration and
protect those exercising their right to a peaceful protest,” she added.
While there are many from the UK in Riga for Pride,
including a delegation from London Pride and the Metropolitan Police, there
are even more from nearby Sweden, including a Government Minister,
Tobias Billström, the minister for migration and
asylum policy at the Ministry of Justice.
But unable to attend at the last
moment because of military commitments was Rear
Admiral Anders Grenstad.
In a message to Riga Pride,
read by Captain Krister Fahistedt of the Swedish Air Force,
said: “You will be expressing the basic platform for all democracies —
human rights are not to be compromised.
“To freely express LGBT rights in
not negotiable, it is part of an obvious right in every country that calls
themselves a democracy.”
He went on to say in his message
that no changes in society can be made without a lot of work and effort.
“When your festival is over, there will be a lot of
common weekdays when, one after another, where the same message has to be
spoken out without hesitation or fear.
“Changes take time … and I wish you all the strength
there is,” the Admiral’s message ended.
Amnesty International has brought-in a lot of supporters
from across Europe to take part in Sunday’s Pride. Amongst those already
here is a representative of Amnesty’s branch in Belarus, often dubbed as the
last dictatorship in Europe.
Both the International Gay and Lesbian Association (ILGA)
and it’s European subsidiary ILGA-Europe have representative here. An two
documentary film directors are in town to make films.
This afternoon, a small group of representatives of
Mozaika and Amnesty International, along with UK Gay News, were
invited to tea with the British Ambassador in the Embassy.
At the same time, the Swedish Embassy hosted a reception
for the Swedish visitors and representatives of the Latvian LGBT community.
Tomorrow evening (Saturday), Riga city authorities will
be closing Vermanes Park and sealing off the area. They are taking no
chances of disruption to the Gay Pride by the protestors.
At about the same times, the No Pride group is staging a
‘family’ rally by the river, more than a mile away.
■ No Pride today sent an email to UK Gay News
— similar emails are believed to have been sent to other LGBT organisations.
“Please, make sure you help people of Latvia!
“Latvia is the country that oppose same-sex
marriage. The constitution of Latvia clearly says that. If you are one of
those, who support NATURAL FAMILY (not same-sex family), you can count on
our support in the future...
“ONE MAN ONE WOMEN RULES! THAT'S THE WAY TO GROW