<<^^As up to 500 turned out for a Gay Pride March in Tallinn, Estonia’s capital, an unhappy onlooker reaches into her purse, grabs an egg, and throws it at the crowd, before facing a policeman.
A gang of homophobic protesters used stones and sticks to attack Estonia’s third annual Gay Pride March this past Saturday, injuring 15 people. Some 500 participants joined the Pride March in Tallinn, Estonia’s capital—they carried rainbow flags and placards reading “Love Doesn’t Ask About Gender,” “We Have the Right to Be Who We Are,” “Children of Gays Need Protection Too,” and “We Heteros Support Gays.”
“A Spaniard who was taking part in a gay seminar in Estonia together with other LGBT activists from Europe was hospitalized with a head injury after a stone was thrown at him” during the march, said Juris Lavrikovs of the gay group Mozaika from neighboring Latvia, who was in Tallinn for the Pride march.
“A skinhead came at me shouting ‘pederast’ in Estonian and spat in my face two times,” he added in an e-mailed account of the day’s events.
Lisette Kampus, 23, a spokeswoman for the Pride March and one of its organizers, said that she and its supporters were “in shock at this absolutely unacceptable behavior.”
The attacks were unusual for Estonia, which prides itself on being a tolerant country, and were widely covered by the Estonian media, which is generally considered as not hostile to lesbians and gays, and which reflected the general public reaction of shock at the violent attack on the march.
“It’s particularly revolting that the gang, calling themselves Estonian patriots, attacked women demonstrators first. Then they started throwing stones and sticks at everyone,” Kampus told Agence France-Presse.
The violent attacks “took place just in front of our Latvian banner,” said Lavrikovs, “so it was quite terrifying to see these people running freely into the marchers and starting attacks. While we were marching we saw eggs being thrown at the marchers on a few occasions. Egg-throwing started even before the march when the participants were gathering at Sauna Street in Tallinn, where the march was starting. Eggs were flying from the windows of the residents of this street.”
Pride organizers put the number of skinhead attackers at around 30, and said they were from ultra-right nationalist groups.
The Pride march was delayed 20 minutes after police received a call warning that bombs would explode in Tallinn’s Old Town, starting point for the march, shortly before the event began. However, no explosive devices were found.
Gay activists decried the lack of police protection for the marchers.
“There were too few police present so they could not really handle the attack,” Kampus said.
“I have to say that we definitely did not see a prominent police presence at all,” agreed Lavrikovs.
The Pride March, which had a legal permit, was the culmination of a week-long gay cultural festival. Pride events held in the past two years unfolded without violence, but this year’s march had been preceded by some public criticism which had demanded the march be banned.
“Unfortunately, Estonia is now in line with Latvia and Poland, where gay and lesbian parades have also been viciously attacked,” Kampus said. “The aim of our parade is to show that we exist. We don’t promote a certain kind of sexual orientation.”
But, she added, “We remind people of our right to be equal with everybody else.”
The march was organized by a small cadre of activists.
“We are five organizers, 27 years old on average,” Kampus said. “There are three LGBT groups in Estonia but it is hard to talk about it as we are a small country. The circle of activists is very small. One thing is very unique here—we all cooperate very strongly. There are no tensions here” among the gay groups.
A poll commissioned by the Estonian newspaper Postimees—the nation’s biggest daily—and taken in June showed that one in four Estonians would not want to live next door to a homosexual. The poll was commissioned after the openly gay Dutch ambassador to Estonia, Hans Glaubitz, asked to be transferred to another posting, saying that his partner had been harassed because of his sexual orientation.
Doug Ireland can be reached through his blog, DIRELAND, at http://direland.typepad.com/direland/.