Baltic Pride marchers will not be fenced from the public on Gedimino Avenue
Marchers at the Baltic Pride parade "For Equality" on Gedimino Avenue in Vilnius this Saturday will not be fenced off from the rest of the public. Security barriers will be raised in certain points only, the police have told reporters on Thursday. There will be fences, however, around Lukiškių Square where the concluding part of the event will take place.
Kęstutis Lančinskas, the chief of Vilnius County Police Commissariat, warns that neither marchers nor protesters against the event will be allowed to carry any big and heavy items (like sticks, stones, bricks, etc.), bottles over 100ml. The police are instructed to confiscate any such items.
Officers will also scrutinize people covering their faces, carrying big bags, wooden flagstaffs. According to Public Order Department chief Vytautas Grašys, the police will not be confiscating anti-LGBT banners, unless they bear insulting messages.
The police have prepared for a worst-case scenario which includes riots.
Lančinskas underlines that there will be zero tolerance for any kind of illegal action. "We will not tolerate that on either side. If police officers sometimes tolerate minor misconduct, this time even the smallest offence will be reported," he stresses.
Public order will be maintained by at least 400 officers in uniforms and civilian clothes.
Business owners on Gedimino Avenue are advised to secure their windows on Saturday.
The police have prepared for a worst-case scenario which includes riots. Lančinskas has quoted messages that have spread online, inviting people who live on Gedimino Avenue to throw stones or Molotov cocktails on the marchers and bring baseball bats. "When we read this kind of things, we want to prepare for the worst," he admits.
The police chief invites people in Vilnius to keep their calm, because violent actions "do not lead anywhere."
"We have a fine, lively street - Gedimino Avenue. If there is any illegal action, it could be left in ruin, property can be damaged," he says. "If someone wants to express their opinion, it has to be done in legal ways, without violence or illegal action. Let's show that we are civilized Europeans, that we can be tolerant."
Organizers of the LGBT pride march expect about 800 people in the procession. These are to include Dutch MEP Sophia in't Veld, who also took part in the Baltic Pride march three years ago, Swedish politician Cecilia Wikostroem, Austrian Ulrike Lunacek. She will also give a presentation at the conference "Towards a European Roadmap for LGBT Equality" on Friday.
Sweden's European Minister Birgitta Ohlson, who came to Baltic Pride in 2010 while pregnant with a baby, is going to participate in the march this year as well. Other foreign guests are to include Scandinavian and Spanish ambassadors, representatives of ILGA-Europe and EU's Fundamental Rights Agency.
Vladimir Simonko of the Lithuanian Gay League assures that the march will welcome everyone willing to take part.
Organizers say that invitations have been sent out to all Lithuanian MPs, except Petras Gražulis, who has earned notoriety for homophobic statements. However, only one MP, Marija Aušrinė Pavilionienė of the Social Democratic Party, has confirmed that she will join the event. The Liberal Movement, currently in the opposition, has also expressed support.
Vilnius also expects about twenty LGBT activists from Latvia, a little fewer from Estonia, and some 50 people from Amnesty International, a global human rights organization.
Start at 1 PM
Vladimir Simonko of the Lithuanian Gay League (LGL), one of the organizers of the event, assures that the march will welcome everyone willing to take part. However, all participants will be screened by security officers.
Marchers will start assembling at around noon in Kudirkos Square, opposite the Government Palace, a little further from the originally intended site near the Cathedral.
Participants will have to join the procession before 1 PM, as those arriving later will not be let through. Gedimino Avenue will be guarded by several hundred police and security officers. At 1 PM, the procession will move towards Lukiškių Square.
A stage will be raised in Lukiškių Square, opposite the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for official speeches and performances. The event will conclude at 4 PM.
According to the police, fences will be brought to Lukiškių Square before 11 AM on Saturday. Some of the streets crossing Gedimino Avenue will be closed for traffic as well. Moreover, no parking will be allowed on Vasario 16-osios Street between Goštauto Street and Gedimino Avenue. Temporary traffic restrictions will be put in other streets adjoining Lukiškių Square.
No rainbow signs
Organizers ask march participants to not display any rainbow flags, banners, and other LGBT symbols before they arrive on the site. On their way there, participants are advised to cover badges or T-shirts with outerwear or carry everything in bags.
Participants are also asked not to engage with protesters and hostile onlookers - refrain from talking to them, showing gestures. Moreover, people are advised to stay in Lukiškių Square until the end of the event at 4 PM.