Chainsaws roar at Marsa Park in Riga

On Monday, August 31, the felling of trees started at “Marsa Parks” in Riga, where the new State Security Service (VDD) building is planned, activists told Latvian Radio.

Many have been opposed to the felling of the old trees at the former bicycle track "Marss" since last year. More than 15,000 votes were collected against, the matter was also discussed in the Saeima, but the majority of politicians pointed out that the interests of national security are more important and the VDD building shall rise.

Last year the Riga City Construction Board issued a tree felling permit for 44 trees. The security service promised that a large oak and several other trees would be preserved, but some would disrupt the works, so they would have to be felled. They'll be planting new ones instead.

The urban environment activist Māris Kalējs told Latvian Radio that in the morning  “cars with sealed numbers, several officers who do not present any documents, and four police guards” had arrived and started cutting the trees.

He said officers had also warned “about five years in prison if they [activists] were filming what was going on because it was a state object”.

By 9:00, “some 10 trees were cut, the big lindens”, “we can't do anything”.

Protesters, meanwhile, are trying to delay traffic on the intersection of Brīvības and Biķernieku Street. They are protesting, very slowly crossing the zebra, telling the police that their feet hurt and they could not walk quicker, and they were also chanting “Marsa Parks!”.

LTV observed that the police were thinking how to react and whether the protest could be considered as an unlawful picket.

“The current government decision [on building construction], project deadlines and national security interests are binding on VNĪ as a capital company,” later said Renars Griškevics, Chairman of the Board of State Real Estate (VNĪ).

VNĪ indicated that existing trees will be kept to the maximum extent - at least 25 trees will be maintained, including oak and a row of lindens along Ropazu Street, as well as additional greening is planned.

The preserved trees will be adapted to the new conditions, so the look of the unkempt trees will improve significantly at present, environmental safety will be increased and the lifetime of the trees will be extended, VNĪ said.

As previously related by LSM, thousands signed a petition calling for the run-down location to be made into a park in a part of the city without much greenery -- only for it then to be revealed that the VDD had secret plans to build a new headquarters on the site.

Campaigners say there is no shortage of alternative sites for the VDD, which for its part insists only this one will do.

In May, protesters also took to the streets to save the park from the chainsaw.

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