Lithuania′s first gay pride parade draws protests | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 08.05.2010
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Lithuania's first gay pride parade draws protests

Police fired tear gas and arrested at least 12 people as opponents of Lithuania's first gay pride march hurled stones and fireworks at marchers in the capital Vilnius.

Demonstrators walking with police on horseback in Vilnius on Saturday

Police protected marchers from the demonstrators

Police fired tear gas to disperse opponents of Lithuania's first ever gay pride rally after protests turned violent.

Officers broke up a crowd of about 2,000 protesters as demonstrators threw water bottles, fire-crackers and stones from behind security barriers.

Some 400 people took part in the two-hour Baltic Pride 2010 march, demanding equality in a sealed-off area of the capital Vilnius.

Vilnius county police chief Kestutis Lancinskas said the arrests had been made for public order offences, including carrying offensive weapons.

Two men holding hands

Activists say homosexuals face intolerance in Lithuania

Among those detained were two members of the Lithuanian parliament. The MPs were being charged with attempting to incite a riot, Lancinskas told reporters.

Flags, music and dancing

Marchers held large rainbow flags and danced to music as they walked close to the Neris River, which runs through the city. The parade had only been given the go-ahead on Friday, after an earlier court-imposed ban.

The ban was criticized by President Dalia Grybauskaite, some European governments, and the international rights watchdog Amnesty.

Organizers wanted to draw attention to intolerance of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals in strongly Roman Catholic Lithuania.

"We've made a decisive step towards greater tolerance," Vytautas Valentinavicius, one of the organizers, told AFP.

German parliament member Volker Beck joined the marchers and told the German Press Agency dpa that the march was intended to put pressure on the Lithuanian government to improve gay rights.

"This is a signal to the Lithuanian government that we are in Europe and lesbian and gay people have equal rights," he said.

rc/AFP/dpa/Reuters
Editor: Sonia Phalnikar

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