Latvia Police Halt Nazi Commemoration Parade in Capital

A parade to commemorate the day Nazi troops marched into the Latvian capital Riga during World War II was brought to an abrupt end by police following condemnation.

A parade to commemorate the day Nazi troops marched into the Latvian capital Riga during World War II was brought to an abrupt end by police on Thursday following condemnation from the government and municipal authorities.

Latvia police stop Nazi commemoration march
AP

A small crowd of around 20, mainly elderly, people gathered at the Latvian Occupation Museum in Riga's medieval Old Town to take part in the march, with a similar number of counter-demonstrators also present. Both groups were easily outnumbered by media and police.

As the procession moved off, police moved in to stop it because Uldis Freimanis, who had petitioned for the march to take place, was not present and the event was therefore deemed illegal.

Anti-fascist demonstrators cheered police as they moved in and made two arrests.

Despite the official halting of the event, some individuals did continue the walk to the nearby Freedom Monument individually. Sixty-eight-year-old Lotte Laurina from Riga placed a German flag on the monument.

When asked why she had done so, she replied that the Nazi occupation of Latvia had been "one hundred times better" than the Soviet occupations that preceded and succeeded it.

A court on Tuesday overturned an earlier ban on the event imposed by Riga city council. The ruling provoked international condemnation, particularly from Jewish groups.

In Latvia, parties across the political spectrum condemned the march. MEP Roberts Zile of the nationalist For Fatherland and Freedom party said: "It is unacceptable - there is nothing to celebrate and it is completely against Latvia's national interest."

Earlier, Latvian President Valdis Zatlers issued a strong denunciation calling the whole thing "a mockery of the country's independence."

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is due to visit Latvia on July 4 to take part in a commemoration of the genocide that all but destroyed Riga's Jewish population.