Latvian Gay Pride parade marches on amid tight security

Anthony Cuesta | June 04, 2007

An estimated 500 European gay rights supporters gathered in Riga, Latvia Sunday to march in a pride parade, an event that has stirred much controversy in the conservative nation.

Latvia, like many other countries in Eastern Europe, has a conservative and often hostile attitude towards homosexuality. Last year, officials banned a Gay Pride march and anti-gay protesters targeted participants at other events.

Marchers gathered in the park in the center of Riga, the capital. Police were stationed on the park's perimeter.

Small groups of anti-gay protesters shouted insults but there was no violence, Reuters reports. Police said two people were arrested over the insults.

Inside the park bursts of The Beatles' song "All You Need Is Love" could be heard.

On Saturday, Linda Freimane, a board member of Mozaika, Latvia's leading gay rights group, stressed the importance of this year's gathering for sexual minorities' rights in the Baltic states, which joined the European Union in 2004.

"If we don't do it again this year then we give in to the illegal, violent forces who can limit other people's rights just by smothering them,' she said, reports the Associated Press.

Politicians from Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the European parliament joined the march. They included Swedish Immigration Minister Tobias Billstrom.

"The fact we can organize this march this year shows there has been an improvement even if we have to do it in a park," said Spanish European parliament member Raul Romeva to Reuters.

The European Union criticized Latvia for banning last year's gay parade. – Issued by Gay Link Content

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