Several days after Monica Lowenberg’s petition was presented to the Lithuanian embassy in London, one of the petition’s points was partly acted on, at least as far as a press release goes, by a governmental agency in Lithuania, notably the Vilnius municipality.
PUBLIC PETITIONS HAVE AN EFFECT!
Point no. 4 of Ms. Lowenberg’s petition reads:
4) A commitment to disallow the neo-Nazi parades in the city centres of Vilnius and Kaunas on national Independence Day holidays in 2013 (with no prejudice to reassignment of venues on free speech grounds to sites and dates that do not heavily imply state support).
The backdrop to this development prominently includes Olga Zabludoff’s earlier petition, launched on 5 February 2012, calling on the Lithuanian government to cancel the 2012 neo-Nazi march in central Vilnius. It garnered over 2,000 signatures (including many hundreds from Lithuanian citizens). Ms. Zabludoff’s petition was addressed to the Lithuanian ambassador in Washington DC.
Ms. Lowenberg’s petition was presented to the Lithuanian embassy in London on Monday 17 December 2012. It is addressed to the Lithuanian ambassador to the UK. On Wednesday 19 December Vilnius media outlets were reporting that the municipality is requesting a change of venue for the “nationalist march” (a euphemism for the neo-Nazis), away from the capital’s central boulevard, Gedimino (but not a change of date, away from the nation’s cherished independence day which has been so marred by the neo-Nazis’ visible predominance).
The city-center parades, addressed by members of parliament, have been a source of profound embarrassment to Lithuania, an EU and NATO nation committed to democratic principles. Far from there being a progression toward improvement, these parades actually moved from other locations to the city center in 2008. See our eyewitness reports of the neo-Nazi independence day parades in central Vilnius for 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2012.
These neo-Nazi parades have had a devastating effect on the morale of the small, remnant Jewish community, and the other minorities regularly humiliated and insulted by the “patriots marching” (Poles, Russians, Gays and others).
As ever, the Vilnius press reports are sanitized and inaccurate on a number of points. The neo-Nazi element has been central to these parades, rather than it being a case of a “nationalist” parade being “joined” by “some” skinheads. Indeed many of the supporters of fascist ideas, and glorifiers of the 1941 butchers of Lithuanian Jewry, including the Lithuanian Activist Front and the enabling provisional government, are not skinheads at all, but elites of society including politicians, academics, and figures high in media and the arts. But the pro-fascist elements, non-skinhead and skinhead, have been the dominant factor in these parades (which have never included a single marcher opposed to antisemitic and pro-fascist chants).
An English report on this week’s Vilnius request appears in 15min.lt.
The following is a translation of the Delfi.lt report:
Vilnius Municipality Proposes Nationalist March 11 March Follow the Neris River
19 December 2012
The municipal administration of Vilnius is proposing that a controversial march by nationalists on Lithuanian Restoration of Independence Day on 11 March follow a different route next year, along Upės gatvė [River Street] rather than Gedimino Prospect.
In a response the municipality sent to BNS, state and municipal institutions receive priority in their choice of event location and time during state holidays. The municipality said the following events are planned for 11 March next year in the city center: a Baltic flag-raising ceremony at Independence Square, a procession of the Lithuanian military orchestra and honor guard along Gedimino Prospect, brass band concerts on Gedimino Prospect, student holiday concerts and a student art project called “Let’s Sing and Draw Independence.”
“Since official Lithuanian Restoration of Independence Day events will take all day on Gedimino Prospect, a different location was suggested to march organizers (the Lithuanian Nationalist Center and the Union of Lithuanian Nationalist Youth), Upės gatvė [River Street],” Julius Morkūnas, deputy director of the City Safety Department, stated.
Independence Act signatory Romualdas Ozolas expressed dissatisfaction with that proposal. He said “politicized” municipal public servants “know beforehand the traditional [5 years now –trans] place for the youth march, Gedimino Prospect, would be occupied all day by these events the municipality still hasn’t come up with yet.”
The municipality reported march organizers disagreed with the proposal.
These marches are controversial and feature shouted slogans such as “Lithuania for Lithuanians.” Critics note that last year [and all previous years –trans] skinheads took part in these marches and there were placards with the slogans “Skinhead [sic] for native Lithuania, native race and people” and “Neither for the East nor the West, Lithuania for Lithuania’s children.”
Last year about 900 people marched along Gedimino Prospect. The march in 2008 received much attention from the media and later law enforcement [not true, it was generally ignored for months following —trans] because marchers through the city center, among other things, carried a flag decorated with swastikas and skulls and chanted different nationalist and antisemitic slogans [they called for beating up and killing Jews, Russians and Poles. The Union of Lithuanian Nationalist Youth leader, Julius Panka, on his website expressed dissatisfaction the Vilnius municipal organ responsible for issuing public events licenses had offered the same route the Baltic Gay Pride march used several years ago, not as central as Gedimino Prospect and therefore considered by the neo-Nazis a partial victory in fighting the spread of homosexuality. Moreover, swastikas and skull and crossbones and other fascist symbols have been highly visible each year —trans].