We just got back from Baltic Pride … it was an honor to participate in Lithuania’s first pride march, and it was a very memorable experience.
This morning we met with other supporters at the meeting place in the Conti Hotel. There was an air of anticipation among those who gathered, as this event was the first of its kind to take place in Vilnius. Not only Lithuanians, but people from all over the Baltic region, and across Europe joined to support the march. Large buses carried everyone to the demonstration’s starting point. The permit that Baltic Pride organizers were able to obtain allowed 350 in all to participate.
When we arrived there were already people gathered on the opposite side of the river, as well as any accessible point around the perimeter of the area. I saw very few of these people carrying protest signs, but instead most seemed to be watching; maybe waiting to see what would happen.
The city had provided 800 police to keep everyone safe. Many along the perimeter were in riot gear, but there were also police on horses, and even on Segways. As everyone gathered, I saw large signs of the different organizations in attendance – Amnesty, ILGA, the Estonian Youth League, Mosaic, and LGL (sorry if I missed anybody).
Here’s video of the march:
At one point those opposing the march became more vocal. Smoke began billowing up from the East perimeter, but I spoke with Chad who said he thought the police were using that to push back the protesters, but wasn’t sure. There was also a yellow inflatable raft briefly launched into the river, with 2 guys shouting derogatory remarks in English. However, this did not last very long.
The whole march lasted maybe 30 minutes, and then veered into a large green field where a stage had been put up. Music played, followed by organizers getting up and speaking on stage, while everyone stood around listening. They also announced plans for next year’s Baltic Pride march, which will take place in Estonia.
After the march, I asked some Vilnius locals who attended the march what they though. They were pleased that everything went well, but also mentioned that it was “heartbreaking we have to be separated by the river.”
Chad will be posting photos from the march within the next couple of days. They’ll be available at: http://www.walkwithpridenow.com