Latvian authorities denied today entry for six German antifascists who intended to support the protest against tomorrow’s edition of central Riga’s annual March 16th Waffen SS march.
This morning, Cornelia Kerth, chairwoman of Germany’s most important antifascist organization, the Association of Persons Persecuted by the Nazis / Federation of Antifascists (in German VVN-BdA) entered Hamburg airport to board her flight with Air Baltic to Riga. Check-in was without problem, but at the final steps before boarding the aircraft, authorities informed her that she may not enter the plane: “You are on a black list of the Latvian immigration authorities,” they said.
Five other members of the organization, who took a Ryanair flight from Berlin thought they were lucky to be allowed into Riga – but they were arrested immediately after border control at Riga airport. They were informed that they fall under §61 of Latvian immigration law, to wit, that the “persona non grata” rule which can be applied when a “foreigner causes a threat to national security or public order and safety.” The policemen honestly and straightforwardly explicated that their authorities don’t want these Germans to participate at the rally against the Waffen SS march.
It should be recalled: The protest against tomorrow’s march has been legally registered (as every year) and the persons involved have never had any conflict with Latvian law.
What the five Germans do have in common is that they accepted the invitation of Josef Koren’s local organization Latvia Without Nazism. And they already had participated at Koren’s (annual) protest two years ago – peacefully, without any stress or difficulty of any kind with the police. That time, they entered Latvia by bus. On that route, the bus was stopped several times by the police, the people and their belongings checked with some pretexts. And now, all are on the persona-non-grata list. Of course, they were never been informed about this beforehand.
The authorities at the airport forced the Germans to decide whether to return the same day or to be imprisoned in a detention center for illegal immigrants and to wait there for their expulsion. All five decided not to leave “voluntarily.” After some hours, they were put in a police bus and brought to the Latvian border and forced in a bus back to Berlin.
“For years now the march of the Waffen SS fans is protected by the Latvian government. Those few antifascists who protest against the extreme right wing march, are treated by politicians and media like enemies of the state,” the politicians, from Germany Left Party said in a press release. “The Latvian authorities are not doing themselves any favor. Latvia proves to be courting Nazis,” said Ulla Jelpke, member of the German Bundestag), and Sabine Loesing, a member of the European Parliament, in a joint statement.
For them, the case is a severe violation of freedom of speech and assembly. Thomas Willms. the chair of VVN-BdA. made this comment by cellphone from his detention: “It is just plain unbelievable that such a thing can happen in the European Union.”
For Joseph Koren it is hard: Latvian antifascists are very weak and need international support. “They are trying everything they can to hinder our protest”, he said. He continued, in his inimitable style:
“The streets of Riga – now Antifa-rein?”