Police start case over divisive poster in support of Rīga mayor

The Harmony party is on February 9 staging a protest in support of Rīga mayor Nils Ušakovs (Harmony), opposing a cabinet initiative to sack the Rīga City Council after an official was detained in an ongoing probe into municipal transport company Rīgas satiksme.

However, on February 7 the State Police said on Twitter it has started a criminal case over inciting national hatred evident in protest posters appearing in Rīga neighborhoods alongside invitations to attend the Harmony protest.

In particular, the posters display what appear to be Nazi officers taking away Nils Ušakovs with a notice that says, in Latvian, “Because he’s Russian”.

A Russian-language poster that appeared alongside says, "They took away our right to speak. Now they are taking away our city!". It likewise lists a timetable of free buses to take people to the protest and back. 

The police said it has forwarded the info to the State Security Service, Latvia’s interior security force.

It is unclear who is responsible for the posters. Harmony told LSM that it distances itself strongly from the posters and the message conveyed. 

"The posters which are featuring in different versions on social media with a content that is, to put it mildly, awkward, have not been circulated by the Harmony party. The source and goals of these posters must be investigated by the Police. Harmony will publish all the expenses related to organizing the event in the order stipulated by the law," the party told LSM.

In December, outgoing Environment Minister -- the ministry also oversees municipalities -- Kaspars Gerhards (National Alliance) started pushing a bill to sack the Rīga City Council after being pressured to do so at a party congress. 

The new Environment Minister Juris Pūce (Development/For!), who was a vocal opposition councilor in Rīga before becoming a minister, says the bill is being revised and that stronger arguments are being sought for potentially sacking the council. 

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