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Monday 19.11.2018 | Name days: Liza, Līze, Elizabete, Betija

Remembrance day of Latvian Legionnaires passes with shouts and two arrests

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUThe Legionnaires’ remembrance procession in Riga on Friday, 16 March, passed peacefully. Nevertheless, several conflicts did take place among differently-minded people near the Freedom Monument. Two individuals were arrested by police.

The procession started in the morning at St. John’s Church without any tension. Like in previous years, people who oppose the Legionnaires Remembrance Day were nowhere to be seen.

People participating in the procession were carrying flags of Baltic States. One poster held by one of the participants of the procession said: «No to Nazism, no to Communism, no to occupation governments, yes to a free Latvia!»

There weren’t any people who opposed the procession noticed at the beginning or during the walk to the Freedom Monument. Some discussions about historic matters were hears here and there, but most often among members of the «opposing camp». There were many journalists, police officers and hired security during the event.

According to the police, approximately 1,500 people had taken part in the procession. When they arrived at the freedom monument, there were a dozen or so people from Tatyana Zhdanok’s Latvian Russians Union waiting for them. Among those people were also pro-Russian activist Vladimir Buzajevs and self-proclaimed anti-Fascist activist Josifs Korens.

Koren’s organization – Latvian Anti-Nazi Committee – had requested permission from Riga City Council to perform a protest act near the Freedom Monument on the same day as the procession. However, the city council applied restrictions, saying that both events are not allowed to take place at the same time. Two options were offered – have the two events take place at the same time but in different places or organize the two events at the Freedom Monument one after the other.

The organization decided to appeal restrictions in the Administrative District Court. The request was denied, which prompted Korens to announce that there would be no protest. Now, it seems, he decided to act opposite to what he said.

One person from Zhdanok’s group was arrested by police officers for refusal to comply with requests to calm down and stop shouting. The man was holding a poster with an image from a Nazi concentration camp and shouting in English. People from Zhdanok’s group were holding posters with slogans like «They fought on Hitler’s side» written in different languages. They also shouted at the people from the procession and hard exchanges of words with them.

Zhdanok did not submit any applications regarding organization of any events to the city council, so her group attracted attention from the police. The exchange between the two groups was calm at first. However, after some time things started escalating. One particularly active person was arrested after causing a scene. Some people even proposed tossing him in the canal to «cool off».

In the end one person was arrested for failure to comply with rules on public gatherings and procession organization and another one – for coming to a public gathering in a state of severe drunkenness.

There was one person wearing a t-shirt saying «Russian schools will remain!» shouted «Shame to Hitler-lovers!», but everyone just ignored him.

Most people had left the Freedom Monument Square by 12:00, but there were some people «enjoying friendly conversations» here and there. This is something observed nearly every year this day. Although exchange of harsh words and names did become heated a couple of times, no fights broke out in the end. There were a couple of times when it seemed that exchange of blows was imminent, but it seems that the presence of police officers helped keep people in check.

One person from Zhdanok’s group did engage in an exchange of opinions of sorts, but after police told him to stop, he politely complied and refrained from participating in any more discussions. He did film the rest of the event with his camera. One lady spat one of the protesters in the face – police asked her to leave.

The majority of heated discussions at the Freedom Monument transpired among older people, who actively discussed the influence of the Soviet Union’s rule in Latvia and the role of Latvian Legionnaires in WWII.

Near St John’s Church some man was seen distributing leaflets detailing support for Russian schools. Although the man claimed he had no allegiance to any group, he encouraged people to come to Dome Square at 11:00 on 30 March. It should be mentioned that this is exactly the time and place when Zhdanok’s party plans to organize a protest act.

Police say this year’s Legionnaires’ Remembrance Day passed peacefully.

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