Today in the Latvian capital of Riga, a crowd of fascists laid siege to and attacked a meeting called by the Latvian gay organization Mosaika at the four-star Reval Hotel to celebrate Gay Pride, after Pride March planned for today in Riga was banned on Wednesday this past week by the Riga City Council, a ban upheld on Friday by a Latvian court. But anti-gay fascist protesters laid siege to the hotel where some 100 gays and lesbians were meeting, and assaulted those trying to leave. The gay meeting attracted many journalists, who have also been targeted for assault by the protesters, who pelted them with eggs, bottles, and water. [For background on today's siege, read my article for Gay City News earlier this week on the ban on the Latvian Pride March by clicking here.]
Nicolas Alexeyev of GayRussia.ru — who was the organizer of the banned Moscow Gay Pride March, during which he was arrested, a demonstration that was also broken up by fascists on May 27 — had gone to Riga in solidarity with Latvian gay activists to protest the ban on the Latvian Pride March, and Alexeyev this morning has been e-mailing a series of reports on the ongoing siege of the hotel and the assaults, which were continuing as of the receipt of his latest dispatch at 9:09 AM EST. “Protesters are targetting anyone going out of the hotel. Speeches continue inside the hotel quietly, as planned,” wrote Alexeyev in his latest e-mail message.
“Today, Latvia does not show the face of a modern and democratic country. Instead, Riga is showing the face of homophobic facism, threatening its citizens and their guests, including members of the European Parliament,” wrote Alexeyev.
“One of those assaulted was the openly gay pastor Rev Maris Sants. The police refused him protection as he went to his car, where he was attacked,” Alexeyev said.
“People attending the press conference had to be rushed out into waiting vans to be ferried away from the baying homophobic crowd,” said eye-witness Peter Tatchell of the British gay rights group OutRage.
“Earlier at 1100 hours today, the church service Rev Sants held in support of Riga Gay Pride was attacked by a dozen neo-nazis. Worshippers were pelted with shit and rotten fruit. Despite previously requesting police protection, no police were present to protect the congregation. Dutch MEP (Member of the European Parliament) Sophie In’t Veld was one of the worshippers prevented from leaving the church by the homophobic vigilantes,” reported Alexeyev.
Agence France-Presse reported this morning that, “An AFP reporter outside the Church of England protestant church in the heart of Riga said hundreds of anti-gay protesters had gathered as the service drew to a close, and chanted abuse at the 50 people inside. ‘Homosexuals are dirty sinners. They are immoral people and they don’t have a place in normal society,” said Viktors Biese, leader of the Latvian national radical organisation ANSS. “We have to stop them now. We can’t wait until they start demanding the right to get married and adopt children,’ he told AFP.”
“Around a dozen of the gay pride supporters, including a pastor, Juris Calitis, who led the service and remained in the church after most of the congregation had slipped out, were hit by eggs and bags of excrement as they left,” according to the AFP dispatch.
According to Alexeyev’s dispatches, Dutch MEP Veld said of the siege and assault on the meeting in the hotel that “it’s putting Europe to the test….We see that some of our European governments are throwing human rights out of the window.” Veld added that “We need to speak louder or we will leave the floor to the bigots, to the extremes, to the ones who want violence. Tell your friends and family to speak out. That is just as important. I will go back the European Parliament and will make sure that the Parliament will speak out.”
“The inaction of the Latvian police is scandalous. They seem to be doing the absolute minmum,” said OutRage’s Tatchell.
Doug Ireland, a longtime radical journalist and media critic, runs the blog DIRELAND, where this article appeared July 22, 2006.