Police start case over 'swastika' flags carried at centenary parade

After an investigation by the Security Police, Latvia's interior security agency, the State Police will start an administrative case over several people flying flags displaying symbols similar to the infamous Nazi swastika at the November 18 celebrations, reports LSM's Russian-language service.

Earlier LSM reported that on November 18 three men raised flags featuring a symbol similar to the swastika and facing in the direction used by the Nazis.

Even though the sighting was reported to the municipal police, who were patrolling nearby, they took no action. It is thought that one of the men parading with the flags was Igors Šiškins, a well-known ultra-right figure who has been arrested numerous times in the past for provocative actions at public events. 

The law forbids using Nazi symbols in public, including in stylized form. This carries a penalty ranging from a warning to a €350 fine.

The Latvian version of the symbol, of which there are many variants, is an ancient folk motif, though when used postwar it is usually displayed facing to the left rather than the right. Nevertheless it continues to cause surprise and frequently displeasure and unease among visitors to the country when they see it for the first time.

Sometimes the use of the symbol comes with a clear context to show there are no sinister or anti-Semitic intentions - for example in traditional folk dance formations.

At other times the motivations of those using such symbols is a desire to provoke others - and this is certainly an aspect of the incident that will be investigated by police.

Nevertheless all events linked to the centenary celebrations passed peacefully and the mood across the country was positive.

in both cases the stories of the appearance of Latvian "swastikas" provide an easy story for anyone wishing to depict the country in a negative light, as this piece from a couple of years ago discusses.

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