Latvian LGBT citizens held a prayer vigil in a church on Saturday instead of holding a parade, which had been banned by the capital city’s council. After the prayer service ended, approximately 50 LGBT congregants were attacked by hundreds of militant, right-wing groups, including skinheads and members of the Orthodox Church, as police stood by and did nothing to stop the attacks. Open, un-provoked and un-punished attacks against Eastern European gays have become commonplace in recent times.
On Wednesday, July 19, 2006, the Riga City Council denied a parade permit for the LGBT marchers, citing security concerns. Militant right-wing youth groups and members of the Orthodox Church had threatened to disrupt the parade.
On Friday, the Latvian President spoke out against the Riga City Council’s decision, calling it unacceptable.
In a statement President Vaira Vike-Freiberga said that “the refusal to authorize this parade is unacceptable in a democratic country because Latvia’s priorities are those articles of the Constitution, which enable people to express their opinion and the state should make it possible for them.”
Congregants who managed to stay in the Church and avoid any attacks said that the police did nothing to stop the right-wing attackers from harming the LGBT citizens.
Eastern Europe has seen itself embroiled in a bitter and violent culture war over the acceptance of LGBT citizens in the life of its nations and society.
Last year, marchers in Poland were attacked in numerous cities.
European Union authorities have been paying close attention to the situations and Poland has been under the careful eye of the EU’s Human Rights Commission.