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

Gay Pride Season 2013 in Review

Author: , July 24th, 2013

Gay Pride Flag San FranciscoThe gay pride photos and reviews are rolling in for the 2013 season. Here are a couple new ones.

P’town Bear Week 2013

While the toned and hairless circuit boys may rule the magical, uber-queer mecca of Provincetown, MA during the week around July 4th, the next week the ferries carried a whole other subspecies into the port: bears, otters, cubs, and chasers, for the Provincetown Bears’ annual Provincetown Bear Week! Bear Week, which took place from July 13-21st this year, has become one of the artsy Cape Cod town’s most massive, popular events. And while a few grousing fur-phobic twinks could be spotted along the Commercial Street strip, many families and tourists adored the hirsute crowd.

Authored By Lawrence Ferber – See the Full Story/Photos at Queerty

Click here for gay travel resources in Provincetown.

Europride 2013

Some 7,500 activists and supporters of LGBT rights marched through the French port of Marseille at the start of Europride on July 20.

See the Full Story/Photos at The Advocate

Click here for gay travel resources on Long Island.