Rīga scraps pro-tolerance posters over decency worries

'My Rīga - free from hatred!' is the name of the tolerance campaign by the Dia+Logs center. The posters of the campaign, co-financed by the Rīga City Council, were removed from the streets of the capital in a move that the council says was sparked by locals' complaints about the alleged promotion of same-sex marriage, reported Latvian Radio on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, deputy Jūlija Stepaņenko of the 'social democratic' Harmony party, who authored the 'public morality' amendments to the education law, called the campaign poster a 'scribbling' and thanked the council for its swift reaction.

'Be tolerant. Your support may change lives,' said the now-removed posters, created by the Dia+Logs center for supporting those who suffer from HIV/AIDS. The campaign was co-financed by the Society Integration Program of the Department for Education, Culture and Sports of the Rīga City Council.

Riga mayor Nils Usakovs is leader of Harmony and was recently at a meeting of Danish social democrats to reinforce his social democratic credentials..

The poster shows four silhouettes - a homeless person, a person in a wheelchair, a girl whose mother is HIV-positive, while the fourth silhouette says: "My name is Jānis and I love my friend Kaspars [both are male names in Latvian]. I want our future to be together."

Morality campaigner Jūlija Stepaņenko said that it's Jānis who has prompted her ire. She thinks that the campaign used people with disabilities in order to promote same-sex marriage.

"I see that one of the aims of this poster is promoting same-sex marriage. I personally think that the disabled character was used in a misguided manner. If this poster aims to promote tolerance towards homosexual people, the disabled person doesn't fit it any way and using him is completely unethical, " Stepaņenko told Latvian Radio.

"I have ascertained that this scribbling will be removed tomorrow. Thanks to everyone who reported it and thanks to the council for its swift action," the deputy said on Facebook.

 

Noskaidroju, ka šis ķēzījums pazudīs no acīm jau rīt. Paldies visiem acīgajiem un paldies domei par operatīvu rīcību.

Posted by Julija Stepanenko on Friday, September 25, 2015

Stepaņenko denied that she had asked removing the posters. A member of her party, Eiženija Aldermane, head of the Education and Culture Committee of the Rīga City Council, said that a collective decision was made because of complaints by locals. 

"We started receiving a large number of protests that a poster was placed for taxpayers' money after a decision was made for promoting holy morality," she said, referring to the public morality amendments accepted by Saeima in June.

"By analyzing the situation and seeing that the topic [of the poster] has been broadened, not like it was in the project description, a collective decision was made about removing the posters, and it was carried out last Friday," Aldermane said.

The Dia+Logs center described the campaign as promoting tolerance towards everyone, not only those infected with HIV. 

Guntis Helmanis, the head of the Department for Education, Culture and Sports of the Rīga City Council, said through his press secretary that after calls by locals a polarized interpretation and understanding of the campaign was underway. 

There was no more talk about the topic of the advert - the problem posed by HIV and AIDS - but rather the way it was presented. That's why the department decided to shorten the time the posters were shown by a week, and the authors of the project were informed about that, according to Helmanis.

Ruta Kaupe, the head of the Dia+Logs center, is in an HIV conference in Georgia so she couldn't give detailed commentary over the matter, though she stressed that she hadn't received a letter from the council last week while she was present.

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