by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
Four hundred marchers took part in Baltic Pride 2010 in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Saturday, May 8.
They were escorted by 800 Lithuanian police who eventually had to use tear gas to disperse a mob of 1000 anti-Gay protestors.
Pride marchers walked and danced for two hours through a sealed-off area in downtown Vilnius, Lithuania's capital. They carried huge rainbow flags and banners emblazoned with the slogan "For Equality."
Anti-Gay protesters carried crosses and signs, and shouted insults at rally participants. Some threw smoke bombs at the Pride parade.
After they were dispersed by police tear gas, they reformed and attacked the police with rocks and street signs.
Nineteen people were arrested, including two Lithuanian legislators who tried to climb over police barriers to attack the march. The two were later released by police.
Earlier in the day, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at the office of Youth for Tolerance, a human rights organization that helped organize the event. The bomb failed to explode, however, and no one was injured.
A Catholic Mass at the nearby National Cathedral was held to "pray for homosexuals," according to Associated Press.
Seventy-nine percent of Lithuania's 3.4 million people are Roman Catholic.
"Sweden has already wiped out traditional families. Now they came over here to tell us how to live, how to think and who to sleep with. Lithuania will not allow such perversions," said Jonas Kempinskas, who walked from the Cathedral to the protest holding a huge cross.
It was the first Pride event in Lithuania, and it almost did not happen.
A Lithuanian court banned the march on May 5, following the advice of police officials who claimed that it would incite violence, but on May 7 the Supreme Administration Court ruled that the march could take place.
The rights of assembly and expression are guaranteed by the European Convention and the government is obligated to defend them, the court held.
Lithuania joined the European Union in 2004 and is required to observe European Convention human rights protections.
"There were storm clouds this morning, but now the sun shines and we see a rainbow in the sky and on the ground. I hope this peaceful parade will show the Lithuanian people that there is nothing shameful or frightening," said Vladimir Simonko, a Lithuanian Gay activist.
Simonko said the parade would be held again next year.
Slavic Pride 2010 will take place on May 15 in Minsk, Belarus, and Moscow Pride is scheduled for May 29.
Moscow Pride has been banned by Moscow's mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, but organizers say it will take place anyway.
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