In a decision with a surreal touch of a topsy-turvy world, Kaunas municipal authorities have announced that they are on “security grounds” revoking the permit for a pro-human rights march with a maximum of one hundred people. The march had been permitted for 4 PM this Thursday, 16 February, in the center of Kaunas, Lithuania’s second city. It was conceived in part as a response to the neo-Nazi march which has a permit for a maximum of one thousand people at 1 PM the same day.
The neo-Nazi march is proceeding as scheduled. Authorities have found no “security issues” to derail that event.
February 16th is Lithuania’s independence day marking the date in 1918 when national independence was proclaimed. In recent years its celebration in Kaunas has been marred by neo-Nazi demonstrations, proceeding with authorities’ approval, that have negatively impacted on Lithuania’s standing in the world.
The nation’s second independence day, next month on March 11th, celebrates the declaration of independence from the Soviet Union in 1990, a pivotal part of the history of the unravelling of the Soviet empire. The action will switch to the capital city Vilnius, where the neo-Nazis have a permit for a max of 2000 people. Last year, a member of parliament and official of the Genocide Research Center played leading roles in the neo-Nazis’ march.
The March 11th Vilnius march is also scheduled to be followed by a much smaller pro human rights march. Inevitably, there is speculation circulating about whether authorities will likewise find a “security” reason to stop that one, while allowing the neo-Nazis unfettered rule over independence day in the heart of the nation’s capital.