The management of the Hotel Alberts in Riga ordered the removal from a bar area to elsewhere of a photo exhibit of last year's Pride event in Riga that was to be displayed during a low-key conference on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues organized by the Latvian LGBT organization Mozaika.
The photographs were by Austrialian photographer Madeleine Marcus Bentley and showed scenes from last summer's march, in which LGBT marchers and their supporters were allowed to march down a short, police protected stretch of a public street instead of being confined to a park or a cordoned-off area to keep angry counter-demonstrators at a distance.
This year there was no Pride march in Riga, it took place as a pan-Baltic event in Vilnius, with some incidents caused by anti-gay protestors. Instead, Mosaika held a conference with some speakers discussing the history of LGBT people in Latvia and the like. While I did not attend the conference (the reason I have supported Pride is as a pro-free expression, pro-tolerance libertarian) it appears the photo exhibit was intended as a backdrop to the event.
The hotel management, apparently afraid the photos would offend patrons in the bar, ordered the photographs removed to another area. It is not clear whether the exhibit may have been put up where it originally was because of a misunderstanding, but it is clear that the it was removed because of a presumption of homophobia among potential bar guests. As far as the Latvian population goes, the managers of "Alberts" may not have been off the mark. Foreign guests probably have seen political and social-issue demonstrations and shouldn't be upset unless they come from some ultra-religious Third World rathole, and not too many of them make it to Riga as hotel guests.
Whatever the reasons, this incident is yet another reflection of Latvia as a still-backward, failing society, that cannot bring itself to exhibit photos of a controversial event with, as far as I know, little or no controversial content (images of Pride events in other countries have shown extreme costumes, same-sex embraces and the like, as if that had never been seen before...).
I am still not sure whether this post belongs in my other, Free Speech Emergency blog, or here. However, the issue concerns the actions of a private hotel in either breach or misunderstanding of a private contract to host a conference on homosexuality in Latvia, not the actions of state authorities. From a libertarian position, I am uncomfortable with forcing people to tolerate or interact with others. Breaching a contract or altering the rules in the middle of the game doesn't sit well either. The whole event just reflects the incompetence, provincialism and primitive prejudices of Latvian society and its "business" community. It comes against the background of the removal of the head of the "For A Good Latvia" (Par Labu Latviju) movement, a businessman who said he didn't object to gay marriage, at the instigation of the closely-linked cryptofascist, openly homophobic Latvia's First Party/Latvia's Way (LPP/LC in Latvian)
Whatever the reasons for sudden removal of the Riga Pride 2009 photo exhibit, the Hotel Alberts has certainly removed itself from any list of gay-tolerant establishments in Latvia (anyone keeping count can now lower the other hand...). That probably doesn't matter and the managers of Alberts probably don't give a flying f**k. For reasons I mentioned, I didn't attend the conference, nor did I see the photo exhibit, but I think we now have a snapshot of Latvia, purportedly a democratic European Union member country, in June 2010, starting the second decade of the 21st century.