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UK and Sweden Show Official Support for Riga Gay Pride

 

‘No Pride’ protestors turn up at wrong venue

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■ 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 Pride.

“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 (May 17).

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, The admiral 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.  It reads:

“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 !!!

A nine-minute video of part of a lecture given in Riga (believed to have been given on May 29) and a transcript of what is not included on the video can be seen on the Good As You website.

■ Scott Lively, the American author of The Pink Swastika, requested and was granted by Mozaika accreditation to todays Family Models: Diversity and Equality conference.   He failed to show up.

Also, Ken Hutcherson, the former NFL linebacker and founder of the Antioch Bible Church, has been spotted in Riga by two staffers of Mozaika.

Rev. Hutcherson preaches hate towards gays and is becoming, with Mr. Lively, increasingly interested in the Latvian campaign against homosexuals by the Russian-speaking New Generation Church.

SEE ALSO

Anti-Gay Group Tells Foreigners to Stay Away From Latvia For Pride ... But They Invite American Guest.  Foreign guests, please don’t come to Latvia for Riga Friendship Days and Gay Pride.  That is the message from the ‘No Pride’ group, who have not headed their own plea. (UK Gay News, May 31, 2007)

Draft of Proposed Partnership Law to Include Gays Will Be Launched Friday at Riga Pride.  A draft new partnership law will a unveiled on Friday at a Riga Friendship Days and Gay Pride seminar. (UK Gay News, May 29, 2007)

Swedish Government Minister to Attend Riga Gay Pride A government minister is to head a delegation of more than 70 people from Sweden to the Riga Friendship Days and Gay Pride, which gets underway on Thursday May 31.  (UK Gay News, May 24, 2007)

Catholic Cardinal Calls Gays ‘Prostitutes’ in Latvian Outburst With less than four weeks to go before the start of Riga Pride and Friendship Days, Cardinal Jānis Pujāts, head of the Roman Catholic Church in Latvia, has defined  homosexuality as a “total corruption in the sexual arena” an “unnatural form of prostitution” and calls on the government to protect “the values of the traditional family against the licentiousness of homosexuals” in a letter published by a Latvian newspaper.  (UK Gay News, May 10, 2007)

     

Posted:  1 June 2007 at 21:00 UK time

 

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