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Gay parade goes off safely

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To the backdrop of 800 police, dog squads and mounted officers, Lithuania's first gay parade was held on Saturday afternoon.

The event, which was nearly cancelled by the Prosecutor General Raimondas Petrauskas just days before it was due to happen, attracted crowds around the perimeters of the area, many of them yelling homophobic chants.

The protesters didn't ruin the mood though with the 400-strong march making its way along the foreshore from Forum Palace to a stage around 300 metres away. There had been plans to go all the way to the Reval hotel, but thousands of angry protesters kept them away.

Instead they danced to music in front of the stage, then listened to speeches by organizers. Afterwards left under police guard by bus.

The police did an excellent job of ensuring safety, which was one of the big talking points before the march.

Though the marchers were completely safe, the same did not go for journalists and police who were watching the fury of the crowd from the Reval hotel end.

One policeman was injured and a Lietuvos Zinios photographer was hurt when a stone hit his head.

Seimas members Petras Grazulis, one of the biggest anti-gay protesters in the country, and Kazimieras Uoka were arrested at the scene. At around 2.30 p.m. the two parliamentarians tried to incite the crowd to follow them by jumping over the barriers into the controlled area.

Grazulis threw punches and fought a policeman to the ground yelling that the parade was scheduled to be over and that they had the right to walk in the area accordingly.

"I want to walk on this pavement because I'm going to Seimas, I have business there," Uoka said

The two have been charged with attempts to provoke a riot.

The head of the Vilnius police force Kwstutis Lancinskas said, "the whole event would have been quite peaceful, if not these two citizens."

Among the 12 people arrested, two were taken for having exploding materials, three for hooliganism and seven for wearing masks and holding sticks.

Smokebombs, bottles and other objects were hurled at police and journalists, even after the parade was finished for an hour.

Alfa.lt
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