An assistant to Latvian MP Dainis Turlais was found guilty of gross public disorderliness Jan. 15 for throwing what was likely a bag of feces at celebrants attending the 2006 gay pride events in Riga.
Janis Dzelme was sentenced to 100 hours of compulsory labor by the Vidzeme District Court for demonstrating what the court called an obvious lack of respect toward the public by ignoring universally accepted norms of behavior.
“This is an enormously important precedent which will send very strong signals to those people in Latvia who believe that freedom of assembly and freedom of speech should be limited with violence,” said Kristine Garina, chair of the pride organizing group Mozaika.
Turlais is among the parliament's more anti-gay members. He reportedly has called gays “faggots” and “scum.”
Last year's Riga pride went relatively smoothly but in 2005, when activists first attempted to march, the 150 marchers were heavily outnumbered by around 1,000 anti-gay protesters who hurled insults, bottles and rotten eggs; blocked the streets; and forced the parade to be rerouted. The protesters chanted “No sodomy” and “Gays fuck the nation.”
Then, in 2006, the City Council banned the parade. Organizers responded by holding a religious service at a church and meetings at a hotel. Attendees at both were attacked by Christian, ultranationalist and neo-Nazi protesters who pelted them with eggs, rotten food and feces.
Last year, armed with a court ruling that the 2006 ban was unconstitutional, more than 500 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people marched around a fenced-in park under heavy police protection, dodging only a paint-bomb, an ice-cream cone and a few firecrackers.
Police outnumbered the marchers and the approximately 100 jeering anti-gay demonstrators.