EuroPride 2015 in Riga – a Fantastic Success!

Author: , June 28th, 2015

Riga Pride - Briand Bedford

On Saturday, the 20th June around 5.000 participants met up in the central Vermanes Park in Riga, the capital city of the Baltic State of Latvia. At 2pm the participants left the park and the parade covered 2.2 kilometers (1.4 miles) through Riga’s central streets and back to Vermanes Park. This distance is four times longer than any previous Riga Pride parades.

Riga Pride - Briand BedfordThis year many participants were worried about safety and Amnesty International urged the Latvian government to commit to protect the participants of this year’s EuroPride. It was disturbing to see the Latvian government’s evident discomfort at hosting EuroPride. Instead of welcoming this event, Latvia’s leaders preferred to turn their backs on it.

Latvia is currently holding the presidency of the European Union and should be leading by example in the fight against homophobic discrimination. Probably for this reason the police presence was very noticeable during the march on the streets of Riga. Special riot police headed the parade and barricades were erected around the Vermanes Park, where the parade started and ended. After the parade there was a park festival with stage events from singers and speeches from local as well as international LGBTI activists.

Riga Pride - Briand BedfordNot all Latvia’s political leaders turned their backs on the EuroPride. Local participants included Latvias former parliamentary secretary and now Adviser of Ministry of Foreign Affairs Viktor Makarov and his boyfriend; Karlis Streips – a famous Latvian journalist and one of the first well known personalities in Latvia to come out gay and Ilze Vinkele, a very gay-friendly member of the Lavian parliament, who spoke at the rally after the march. Sadly the Latvian foreign minister, Edgars Rinkēvičs, who become the first high-ranking politician in his country and the Baltic states to come out publicly as gay did not attend the event.

International support came from the US and Embassy as well as the German and Norwegian Ambassadors: Mrs Andrea Joana-Maria Wiktorin and Mr Jan Grevstad, who all took part in the parade through the streets of the Latvian capital.

On the streets the locals were clearly in favour of the parade. Many young people lined the route and waved the parade participants their support. Opponents to the EuroPride were not visible – an amazing change in attitudes when compared to the local Pride events in the past.

Riga Pride - Briand BedfordIn previous years Pride events in the Baltic region faced threats of violence and attempts to be banned by local authorities. In 2006, a LGBT Pride march in Riga was banned owing to what the authorities’ referred to as “security threats” against the participants and violent protesters threw eggs and human excrement at people elsewhere.

In 2007, the Pride march was allowed to go ahead, but inside an enclosed park. Outside the park, crowds of counter-demonstrators shouted abuses at the Pride marchers and threw two explosive devices which exploded in the park. In May 2009 Riga City Council initially revoked permission for the Baltic Pride march.

A successful EuroPride in Riga is of huge importance not only for Latvia but for the entire region, including the post-Soviet countries, where freedom of speech and assembly are under attack every day. The Russian LGBT propaganda law (also known as the gay propaganda law or the anti-gay law refers to a Russian federal law “for the Purpose of Protecting Children from Information Advocating for a Denial of Traditional Family Values” was unanimously approved by the State Duma in June 2013.

Riga Pride - Briand BedfordThe situation in Latvia is similar to that in Russia. Anti-LGBT groups have spent the past year collecting signatures for a referendum that would implement a similar law to ban “gay propaganda.” The new law would limit sexual education to the traditional understanding of marriage, which is seen as the union between one man and one woman. Latest public opinion poll reveals that Latvian society remains hostile towards LGBT people and legal recognition of same-sex partnerships.

EuroPride – one of Europe’s main, annual LGBT events, inaugurated in London in 1992, was hosted this year by the city of Riga in Latvia and coincided with the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. This EuroPride marks a historic occasion as it is the first EuroPride to be held in a post-Soviet country on the EU’s Eastern border with Russia.

The Latvian capital, Riga is located only 300 km from the Russian border. The local increase in tension, resulting from the Ukraine crisis, is very evident in the Baltic States. We’re seeing a massive military build-up in the Baltic states as NATO launched one of its largest-ever military manoeuvres last June in the three Baltic states and the United States recently started deploying a 3,000 strong infantry unit in the Baltics, with over 100 armed vehicles. The NATO forces will hold a three-month exercise with the local armies in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

Riga Pride - Briand BedfordThe EuroPride 2015 in Riga was organised by the Association of LGBT and their friends MOZAIKA (mozaika.lv/en), the only LGBT organisation in Latvia and it was supported by local companies such as Air Baltic – flying from Riga to over 50 destinations worldwide. airBaltic has just introduced new routes including Berlin – Tallinn and has a fleet consists of 25 aircraft, offering nonstop flights from three Baltic capital cities – Riga, Vilnius, and Tallinn. airBaltic received the title of Airline of the Year 2009/2010 (Gold Award) from the European Regions Airline Association. (www.airbaltic.com).

The local tourism LiveRiga (www.liveriga.com) was a big supporter of the EuroPride 2015. The city of Riga was an ideal choice for this parade. A heritage of 800 years old Gothic churches, built by founders of Riga, medieval buildings in the Old Town, exquisite Art Nouveau, as well as wooden buildings make Riga a true pearl of architecture. Each century has left its marks in the architecture in the Old Town and City Centre here the cultural heritage coexists with the quick pace of modern living.

EuroPride 2016 will take place next summer in Amsterdam.

By Briand Bedford, Spartacus | Other Gay Travel Events

Images by Briand Bedford

EuroPride Riga - Briand Bedford

EuroPride Riga - Briand Bedford

EuroPride Riga - Briand Bedford

EuroPride Riga - Briand Bedford

EuroPride Riga - Briand Bedford

EuroPride Riga - Briand Bedford

EuroPride Riga - Briand Bedford

EuroPride Riga - Briand Bedford

EuroPride Riga - Briand Bedford

EuroPride Riga - Briand Bedford

EuroPride Riga - Briand Bedford

EuroPride Riga - Briand Bedford

Europride 2015: Fourteen Things to Do in Riga, Latvia

Author: , May 25th, 2015

Riga Skyline Bar

Never made a trip to the Baltics? Latvian capital Riga will be the host for this year’s Europride festival in summer (15-22 June 2015) – which is reason enough alone to think about paying the city a visit.

Whether you venture there for that or at another time of year, here are 14 things to see, sample or experience…

Explore the Old Town

Riga’s old town – designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – is one of its prettiest aspects, with cobbled streets and buildings dating back hundreds of years. Check out the Town Hall Square, Riga Cathedral, art museum Bourse, Freedom Monument and House of Blackheads.

Enjoy the View From the Radisson Sky Bar

There are three Radisson hotels in the center of Riga. Head for Radisson Blu Hotel Latvija and take the lift the 26th floor to enjoy what is generally agreed to be the best view of the city.

By David Hudson – Full Story at Gay Star News

Image via Riga Skyline Bar

EuroPride 2015 will take place on Russia’s doorstep!

Author: , April 4th, 2015

Riga Pride

EuroPride 2015EuroPride – one of Europe’s main, annual LGBT events, inaugurated in London in 1992, will be hosted this year by the city of Riga in Latvia and will coincide with the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. This EuroPride marks a historic occasion as it is the first EuroPride to be held in a post-Soviet country on the EU’s Eastern border with Russia. The Latvian capital, Riga is located only 300 km from the Russian border. The local increase in tension, resulting from the Ukraine crisis, is very evident in the Baltic States. We’re seeing a massive military build-up in the Baltic states as NATO launched one of its largest-ever military manoeuvres last June in the three Baltic states and the United States recently started deploying a 3,000 strong infantry unit in the Baltics, with over 100 armed vehicles. The NATO forces will hold a three-month exercise with the local armies in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

Riga, LatviaEuroPride in Riga is of huge importance not only for Latvia but for the entire region, including the post-Soviet countries, where freedom of speech and assembly are under attack every day. The Russian LGBT propaganda law (also known as the gay propaganda law or the anti-gay law refers to a Russian federal law “for the Purpose of Protecting Children from Information Advocating for a Denial of Traditional Family Values” was unanimously approved by the State Duma in June 2013.

The situation in Latvia is similar to that in Russia. Anti-LGBT groups have spent the past year collecting signatures for a referendum that would implement a similar law to ban “gay propaganda.” The new law would limit sexual education to the traditional understanding of marriage, which is seen as the union between one man and one woman. Latest public opinion poll reveals that Latvian society remains hostile towards LGBT people and legal recognition of same-sex partnerships.

EuroPride 2015 – Riga has been organised by the Association of LGBT and their friends MOZAIKA (mozaika.lv/en), the only LGBT organisation in Latvia. Baltic Pride 2015 will be held together with EuroPride 2015 and the organizers are expecting around 10.000 visitors to this important event, which was held in Oslo in 2014. This would be over 15 times as many visitors compared to the last Pride parade held in the Latvian capital city in 2012. A successful event of this size would be a fantastic move forward in a country which is generally speaking quite openly homophobic. Even though Latvia’s foreign minister came out as gay last November, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, recently criticized comments made in a newspaper interview about homosexuality and society by the Latvian President.

Riga, LatviaDespite local opposition from anti-homo groups, who are trying to prevent this event taking place by staging their own, absurd events (such as one to “promote smoking, alcohol and drug use, unhealthy food and lifestyle, sexual deviations and various perversions, as well as other strange things”) or a group wanting to stage a festival promoting “family values” and thereby aiming to block the EuroPride route, the organizers remain optimistic that the planned route can be used as originally planned. Sadly the LGBT community cannot expect any support from the local, homophobic Ministry of Justice officials, who has openly defamed the LGBT Community, calling it the “faggot mafia”. Demand support for EuroPride in Riga by sending an e-mail to the Latvian Prime Minister, Mrs. Laimdota Straujuma, (vk@mk.gov.lv) insisting that she respect LGBT Rights in her country and stipulate that the EuroPride 2015 must take place in Riga using the route as planned by the organisers.

Riga, LatviaWhatever the outcome of this legal battle should be, EuroPride in Riga will take place June 15 to 21, 2015 – using the planned route or in the worst case an alternative one. This date is just a few days before Midsummer celebrations, one of the most important holiday periods in Latvia. The festivities will feature a wide variety of events, including an international conference “Freedom of Speech and Assembly World Perspective”, were LGBT activists from post-Soviet countries will attend, an LGBT Business Forum, several exhibitions (including one from a Tom of Finland), the “Black Carnation” film festival and a wide range of workshops celebrating inclusion and equality.
The official parade itself will take place on the 20th June and the planned route will cover a distance of around 2.2km on the most important streets of the city.

Riga, LatviaFund raising parties for the EuroPride 2015 will be taking place in several locations worldwide, including New York (in Therapy on the 22nd April) and in Bern on the 5th June. Other locations and the latest information on the route and the outcome of the legal battle can be found on the Facebook page mentioned below.

Riga, LatviaSupport for the EuroPride has been received from several embassies as well as some large local companies, the most important being airBaltic – flying from Riga to over 50 destinations worldwide (www.airbaltic.com), offering low cost flights to this event – as well as local Latvian prominence , including world famous Opera singers, fashion designers and shoemakers. Participation in the parade is free – but putting all the EuroPride activities together is costly and the local government refuses any funding of this event! If you wish to make a donation or support the parade in any way, please contact the organisers at: office@mozaika.lv
“VIP” as well as “Friends Cards” will be available for this event and can be purchased in advance. In addition a list of gay-friendly accommodation as well as local businesses which support EuroPride, offering special discounted packages have been compiled by the team from MOZAIKA and this is available online at http://book.kolumbs.lv

Riga, LatviaIf you only go to one Pride event this summer please consider the EuroPride in Riga. Your solidarity and support for the Baltic States will be much appreciated by the local LGBT community.

Riga, LatviaIn previous years Pride events in the Baltic region faced threats of violence and attempts to be banned by local authorities. In 2006, a LGBT Pride march in Riga was banned owing to what the authorities’ referred to as “security threats” against the participants and violent protesters threw eggs and human excrement at people elsewhere. In 2007, the Pride march was allowed to go ahead, but inside an enclosed park. Outside the park, crowds of counter-demonstrators shouted abuses at the Pride marchers and threw two explosive devices which exploded in the park. In May 2009 Riga City Council initially revoked permission for the Baltic Pride march.

Riga, LatviaArchitecture of Riga is diverse and ranges from 800 year old Gothic churches, built by founders of Riga, medieval buildings in the Old Town, exquisite Art Nouveau, as well as wooden buildings making Riga a true pearl of architecture. Riga’s restaurants offer fusion cuisine, where one can taste Latvian traditional meals, and original meals offering an astonishing combination of tastes and taking you for an exciting gastronomic journey.

Riga, LatviaOnly 15 minutes away by foot, southward from the center of the Old Town of Riga, along the right bank of the Daugava, is a quarter gilded with a historical aura – Spikeri Quarter and its adjacent promenade, which are part of the territory of UNESCO Cultural Heritage – the historical center of the city of Riga. This renovated part of town with outdoor restaurants and cafes will be one of the venues at this years EuroPride. See you in Riga at EuroPride in June!
Follow the EuroPride 2015 on Facebook at www.facebook.com/EuroPride2015

By Briand Bedford at Spartacus | Other Gay Travel Events

Riga Like a Local

Author: , April 2nd, 2015

Kaspars ZalitisKaspars Zalitis, the EuroPride 2015 – Riga organizer, on life in the Latvian capital:

I’ve lived here since… 1999. I moved to Riga with my family. Riga is the most vibrant city in the Baltic countries. Even though I consider Riga my own home city, I often find many new things to love about it. It’s the great mix of history and fun that keeps me here.

I’ve stayed because…
It has so much to offer. Riga is often underrated! There are many great opportunities both for career and for personal life. Riga is undoubtedly the coolest and most hip city in Baltics.

My favorite queer bar has to be… The best queer bar is Golden Bar. One of their slogans is ‘heterosexual-friendly’! It’s very nice and laid-back place where you can have a drink in a calm atmosphere, but hit the dance floor and have a wild party on weekends.

By Jamie Tabberer – Full Story at Gay Star News | Other Gay Travel Events

Hilights from Riga, Latvia

Author: , February 8th, 2014

Riga, Latvia - Apple Maps

Apple Maps

Cosmopolitan Riga, with its Art Nouveau architecture and dozens of art galleries, seems like a long-overdue choice for the European Capital of Culture – a title it shares with Sweden’s Umea this year. The Latvian capital has served as a cultural crossroads and a bridge between east and west since its foundation.

Like many Eastern European cities, Riga has become a hugely popular weekend break destination, particularly for Europeans, over the past decade. Fortunately, though, the Latvian capital is still very affordable. Here are some suggestions for enjoying the city’s cultural highlights without having to spend a lot…

Cultural Capital Events

Force Majeure is the theme of Riga’s year in the E.U.’s cultural spotlight. The central message of the program is that culture is a force for positive change, and the city will host more than 200 special events throughout the year, from exhibitions and festivals to concerts by local and international musicians.

Authored By Karen Gardiner Dion – See the Full Story at Sherman’s Travel

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