Riga Police have arrested 14 people in connection with the attack on members of the city’s gay community on Saturday.
The attack took place on the day that Latvia’s capital city was set to hold a Gay Pride March, which was cancelled because police had refused to give permission for the event to take place, citing security concerns.
An attempt to force the authorities – through the courts – to allow the parade also failed. Instead, the organisers – LGBT rights group, Mozaika – chose to hold an indoor rally in the second floor conference hall of the Reval Hotel Latvia, in the heart of downtown Riga.
According to British Gay Rights activist Peter Tatchell, who took part, “The Riga Pride rally in the Reval Hotel was under siege all day by protesters from the anti-gay ‘No Pride’ movement. They roamed the streets outside the hotel, looking for gays and lesbians to attack. Anyone who looked gay was liable to abuse and assault, even passing tourists. The police seemed to stand back and let them to terrorise people with impunity.”
Some members of the right wing group managed to enter the hotel and allegedly tore up posters, “abused and threatened Riga Pride participants, and assaulted openly gay pastor, Rev Maris Sants”.
Tatchell goes on to say that, “Many of the Riga Pride participants were trapped in the hotel for up to seven hours; afraid of being attacked if they tried to leave. Over several hours, participants were eventually evacuated in mini-buses via a rear entrance. As they left, some of the vehicles were pounded with fists and pelted with eggs by the anti-gay crowd.”
Earlier that morning, a church service to celebrate Riga Pride, organised by gay pastor, Rev Maris Sants, was reportedly attacked by a dozen No Pride supporters. Worshippers were pelted with excrement and rotten fruit as they tried to leave the church. Despite earlier requesting police protection, no police were present to protect the congregation.
While Mozaika has accused the Police of refusing to protect gay citizens, Interior Minister Dzintars Jaundzeikars has defended the authorities in the light of the arrest of the 14 suspects. The 14 arrestees have been described by the National Police as the “ringleaders” of the anti-gay mob.
Latvia’s president, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, has criticised Riga’s local authorities for not allowing the Pride March to take place.