We listened in disbelief to them tell their story. How can it be that a group of young people, our neighbours to the North, are being banned from peacefully expressing their disgust and condemnation of an ongoing genocide? What is this tyranny? It’s outrageous!
Ever since last October, when Israel began its current slaughter of children in Gaza, that also involves bombing schools, hospitals and people’s homes, many of us were in disbelief that this is at all possible and being committed with such impunity. But here in Lithuania we went to the streets in solidarity with the victims – the Palestinians – and against our own government’s expressed support for the Israeli regime.
In fact, we took to the streets to protest thrice now: twice in Vilnius, and once in Kaunas. We informed the municipalities and the police beforehand, and it did not even cross our minds that our peaceful assembly could be „banned“.
But that is what happened in Riga to our dear Baltic colleagues, the grassroots collective Par Brīvu Palestīnu (For a Free Palestine).
Yes, at our protests, some aggressive Zionists showed up, uninvited, trying to provoke us to violence. We had more important things to do than pay any attention to them. It was the police’s job to deal with them. And they did a good job dealing with it, as they should. So any excuse of „security concerns“, as cited by the Latvian government in their „explanation“ for banning a peaceful demo, is just that – an excuse.
Now our colleagues in Latvia are organising again: a peaceful protest in Riga on 17 February, as part of our joint Baltic Solidarity with Palestine initiative.
If Riga’s municipality bans this event once again, just a couple of weeks after the Hague-based International Court of Justice admitted that Israel’s actions in Gaza amount to „plausible genocide“, then it will say more about Riga’s municipality and the state of democracy in Latvia than about the just cause of the Palestinians.
We stand in full solidarity with our Latvian colleagues.
For their human right to protest, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly.
And for a free Palestine – free from genocide, free from occupation, free from colonisation.
Timeline of pro-Palestinian events in Latvia. From Oct 2023 onwards
By the Par brīvu Palestīnu (For a free Palestine) collective
The first application for a peaceful public protest was submitted to the government on 31 October 2023, wherein the protest would take place on 12 November. However, during the organisers’ meeting with representatives from the Latvian state security service, it was strongly suggested to cancel the event altogether, threatening the organisers with administrative liability. Because of this, the protest planning process was put to a halt.
On 24 November 2023 a flash-mob type of action took place in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; watermelons, candles and posters were placed in front of the building. The police immediately ordered for all of it to be taken away and threatened to fine people for “littering”.
The second application for a peaceful public protest was submitted on 19 December 2023, wherein the protest would take place on 6 January 2024. Initially, after a meeting with the state security service, permission was granted. However, after the upcoming protest was made public, Israel’s supporters and certain politicians started an aggressive online debate, putting forward baseless accusations of anti-Semitism and calling for the event’s cancellation. They also campaigned to pressure the government to ban it, agitating for sending letters and making phone calls to Riga city council. A day before the planned action, i. e. 5 January 2024, the organiser was invited to a meeting with Riga city council, the police and Latvian state security service to talk over the details. After the meeting an official decision from Riga city council was received, in which it was stated that the protest is not allowed “for security reasons”. The organisers were forced to cancel the event and they announced it on social media. The announcement was followed by a big outrage online; even people who don’t necessarily support the Palestinian cause could see that the ban was anti-democratic. On 29 January 2024 an appeal regarding the ban was submitted to the court; it is currently being investigated.
Now a new application was submitted on 2 February for a peaceful public protest to take place in Riga on 17 February 2024, as part of a Baltic solidarity for Palestine action, that is being organised together with our colleagues in Estonia and Lithuania. The protest is against what the Hague-based International Court of Justice admitted to be “plausible genocide” being committed by Israel in Palestine.
We kindly invite activists, organisations and people of conscience in Europe and beyond to support our struggle and to express their solidarity with Palestinian people and our efforts to amplify the Palestinian cause in Latvia!