Special Report: Voices of March 16

The always controversial, unofficial March 16 parade in support of the Latvian Legion passed peacefully on Wednesday, with only one arrest made - and that of someone who clearly wanted to be arrested more than anything else.

Throughout the course of the day, LSM spoke with several different people to get contrasting views of the event and reflections on the historical and contemporary questions it raises.

First we spoke to Liana Langa, a well known Latvian writer, who had helped organize a small early-morning picket outside first the Russian embassy and then the Germany embassy in Riga. She explained the purpose of the demonstrations.

Liana Langa on setting the record straight

    Also present at the picket was Juris Ulmanis, who has previously appeared on these pages promoting a fundraising effort for the Latvian National Guard. He explained how the story of the Latvian Legion continues to resonate today.

    Juris Ulmanis on the Legion and the National Guard

      As the picket neatly rolled up its banners and moved on, we move across to the Latvian parliament or Saeima where we doorstepped opposition (Saskana) member of parliament Boriss Cilevicss. He had an interesting take on the politicization of the March 16 date.

      Boriss Cilevics on politics and March 16

        As the main parade prepared to start moving off towards the Freedom Monument LSM asked two passing tourists from Britain what they thought of the event. They knew nothing about it and said the receptionist in their hotel had claimed not to know what was happening either. They were in Riga to celebrate 34 years of marriage.

        They were particularly surprised to hear about what March 16 was commemorating as they were at that moment on their way to the Riga Ghetto Museum to learn about the liquidation of Riga's Jewish population. They said it was important not to forget "man's inhumanity to man."

        Mr and Mrs Harries

          As the parade approached the Freedom Monument, Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem was looking on, as he has done for many years. He rubbished claims that Latvia is a 'Nazi' state and perhaps surprisingly said anti-Semitism is in some ways now a bigger problem in Western Europe than Eastern Europe - but March 16 does not help, he insisted.

          Efraim Zuroff on anti-Semitism

            Once the parade had finished, Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis told LSM police and other officials had done a good job. Asked about whether even the one confirmed arrest - that of British blogger and renowned Kremlin propagandist Graham Phillips - could have been avoided, he had an interesting answer.

             

            Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis on March 16

              See you next year.

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