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Britain and
Sweden stand in solidarity with Riga pride

Britain and
Sweden stand in solidarity with Riga pride

Several British and Swedish officials have come out in support of Riga Friendship Days 2007, Latvia's annual pride celebration. British ambassador Ian Bond; Jean Lambert, a British representative of the European parliament; and Swedish rear admiral Anders Grenstad have all expressed their desire to see the upcoming weekend filled with celebration rather than controversy.

Many Latvians, including government officials, have voiced their opposition to the festivities. However, the European Union Human Rights Commission explicitly outlines the right to peaceful demonstration.

Previous pride celebrations have been attacked by the antigay group No Pride. The group became victim to its own pressures on Thursday when demonstrators turned up at an empty Riga Conference Center, where they had planned to protest the conference Family Models: Diversity and Equality. The center had already canceled the booking under pressure from No Pride, and the conference, funded by the European Union, went ahead at a nearby hotel without interruptions.

At a reception Friday evening in the Reval Hotel, Ambassador Bond expressed support for the events over the four-day Pride festival. "I am more and more confident that Sunday's parade will be peaceful," he said in a press release from the Web site U.K. Gay News. He also said that the British government is committed to addressing the problems faced by sexual minorities across the globe.

"This is a high priority for the government," he stated in the press release, adding that British Foreign Office Minister Ian McCartney had outlined the U.K.'s commitment in a statement on May 17, the International Day Against Homophobia.

Lambert, who is also a member of the Intergroup on LGBT rights, has called for Latvian authorities to protect participants taking part in Riga Friendship Days.

According to the U.K. Gay News, in a statement Lambert expressed concern that although authorities from Riga and the Latvian government have approved the celebration, the last two years have been met with violent attacks. Fears of hostility are especially prevalent following last weekend's events in Moscow.

"With large numbers of supporters heading from London to Riga to express solidarity with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, it is vital that the Latvian authorities ensure the march goes ahead in peace," she said in her statement.

"Human rights must be upheld and valued by the Latvian government as part of everyday life," Lambert also said, "and in 2007, the European Year of Equal Opportunities, they must reflect the legal status of the demonstration and protect those exercising their right to a peaceful protest."

In a message to Riga Friendship Days, Rear Admiral Grenstad expressed his solidarity with the people of Riga. According to the U.K. Gay News, he said, "You will be expressing the basic platform for all democracies--human rights are not to be compromised. To freely express LGBT rights is not negotiable. It is part of an obvious right in every country that calls themselves a democracy." (The Advocate)

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