The last time City Paper wrote about gay pride events, supporters and marchers were confined to a fenced-off area near and around Vermanes Park in Riga. The yell of the protesters was nearly deafening, and the posters and signs from ‘nopride.lv’ were definitely bigger than those of the revelers.
This, however, was a vast improvement over the first gay pride event in 2005, where protesters threw rocks, bricks, and eggs, a far cry from the often happy and festive gay pride events that much of the world sees. The protesters vastly outnumbered the marchers at that time, and police had to alter the planned route in order to form a human chain around them for protection.
The events of this first pride event gave birth to the non-governmental organization Mozaika, to improve tolerance and understanding in the community.
The event then morphed into Riga Pride and Friendship Days and slowly gained more recognition and support, including from diplomats who marched in the parade.
This year, Riga will host EuroPride 2015, over the course of June 15-21st, with the parade itself taking place on June 20th. Organizers estimate that about 2000 people will participate in the parade. A far cry from the dozen or so in 2005.
The event is generally hosted in a European country with a large and established LGBT community, so Latvia hosting this year is a big step for the region. This event, combined with Baltic Pride, is set to be the biggest event of its kind in the Baltics,
EuroPride, held since 1992, is typically attended by upwards of one million people. When it was announced that Riga would be hosting this year’s event, backlash was immediate from local politicians who wanted to ban the event.
The president of the EPOA (European Pride Organisers Association) Hans De Meyer commented that, “This shows how important EuroPride 2015 in Riga is.” Indeed, previous locations have included London, Rome, Madrid, and Berlin, making this year’s selection even more historic. In addition, the event takes place in its first post-Soviet space, with a special spotlight on LGBT activities and situations in post-Soviet nations.
Far from being apprehensive of this year’s event, organizers are nothing but excited and motivated to make EuroPride in Riga the best ever.
“It’s just going to be fun,” said Kaspars Zalitis, co-chair of the board of EuroPride, who emphasized the movie screenings, music events, and special guests.
The weeklong program will feature several exhibits, including cartoons from Ewert Karlsson, queer narratives in Europe, as well as workshops on health, bisexuality, and asexuality. Special guests will include Ulrike Lunacek, MEP and Vice-President of the European Parliament, EP-Rapporteur for Kosovo and Co-President of the LGBTI Intergroup of the EP, American country musician Steve Grand, as well as Daniel Baer, the U.S Representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
As told to Voice for Equality, Kaspars Zalitis explains:
“At the moment one of our greatest challenges is to organize Riga’s first ever pan-European LGBT event—EuroPride—which will be the celebration of human rights in the region. Despite fierce opposition such as threats of referendum banning “homosexual propaganda” and attempts to block parts of the Parade route, Riga will host probably its most important Pride in EuroPride this summer!”
For more information on this festive event, visit europride2015.eu