I must say that this statement by ILGA-Europe is surprising, to say the least. They were the first to re-publish yesterday BBC report in full without providing any additional commentary. Now apparently they 'retracted' that report and accuse others in "sensationalism." Coincidence of this last attack to the conference and the fact that many delegates were inside the venue provided legitimate basis for BBC and others to link it with the conference. Whether it was linked or not, the fact of attack against the gay venue warranted its widespread coverage by media and condemnation.
In relation to the action organised by 9 protesters (see below), ILGA-Europe states that "The protesters were reasonably peaceful and many of them engaged in conversations with the security guards and even the conference participants. During the coffee break some conference participants equipped with smiles took their organisation’s banners and small rainbow flags and peacefully stood opposite the protesters. There was no confrontation, all were smiling and fascinated by the need of those 9 people to come to protest against the conference. " "Some delegates were wondering how come that the Rainbow Flag public event was banned, but those 9 people were allowed to come and protest outside the hotel. We quickly learned that according to Lithuanian laws on demonstrations there is no need for official permission if there are up to 9 people organising a public event and this made it clear to all of us why there were exactly 9 protesters."
ILGA-Europe reports that during the second day of the annual gay rights conference in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius nine protesters gathered outside the conference venue to protest against "propaganda of homosexuality". Delegates were greeted by "Go Home" posters. Over 200 representatives all over the Europe participate in the annual ILGA-Europe conference in Vilnius.
In the meantime, last night, conference delegates were attacked by smoke bombs. BBC reports that "delegates inside a local bar found it difficult to breathe after the smoke bombs were thrown, but had to stay inside because of safety concerns".
As posted in this blog few days ago, the public event to coincide with the Annual Conference and display a 30 meters long rainbow flag was banned by the Mayor of Vilnius. The Baltic Times reminds that Lithuania, along with neighbouring Poland, is regularly ranked among the most homophobic nations in the European Union.
A press officer for Mayor Juozas Imbrasas told the BBC the public gathering had been banned because of what she said were "safety concerns" due to building works. ILGA-Europe rejected the mayor's decision saying no alternative site had been offered to them and described the ruling as appalling. Executive Director Patricia Prendiville said "It is a positive duty of the city authorities to offer an alternative venue to the applicant and they did not do that.
"There is no doubt that the City of Vilnius used the construction works as a cover. "
Vladimir Simonko from the Lithuanian Gay League said, "There is unfortunately institutional homophobia in Lithuania. A recent survey of MPs revealed the majority of them have a negative attitude towards the gay community. It's hard work for us."
London Mayor Ken Livingston expressed his solidarity with European gays and condemned decision by Vilnius Mayor to ban a public LGBT event for the second time this year. [Earlier this year, in May, the Mayor of Vilnius refused to give permission for the anti-discrimination truck tour to visit Vilnius. It was a part of European Commission initiative All Different - All Equal campaign.] "I applaud the Lithuanian Gay League’s legal action against Vilnius City Council to overturn the ban and I hope that it succeeds."
Amnesty International also condemned attacks and Mayoral ban: "Amnesty International is deeply concerned by yesterday's attacks on the gay community in Vilnius, which saw the mayor ban a rally and a smoke bomb attack on a conference, and has called on the Lithuanian authorities to act."
Amnesty International said:
'Sadly these events are not a one off. Lithuania has repeatedly failed to protect and respect the rights of their gay community.
'To persecute people for their sexual orientation is to violate their fundamental human rights.
'Amnesty International calls on the Lithuanian authorities to respect the right to peaceful freedom of assembly for all, the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation and to actively promote respect for diversity in their country.
'The Lithuanian authorities also need to offer adequate police protection to the country's gay community.'
*photo by ILGA-Europe