About the Events in the Victory Park in Riga on May 9-11, 2022

Testimony of a member of the Monument Guard

On April 11, 2022 the authorities blocked the access to the Monument to the Liberators of Soviet Latvia and Riga from the German Fascist Invaders (this is the official name of the monument). On May 9, additional fences appeared on the approaches to the site in front of the Monument – corridors along which it was allowed to move only in one direction for laying flowers.

Police officers stood everywhere in an attempt to create an oppressive atmosphere, but the citizens of Riga got used to it a long time ago. It was impossible to lay flowers by oneself. This was done by the workers of the municipal service “Rīgas dārzi un parki”. According to the assessment of those who came, they handled the flowers rather carelessly. To visually downplay the number of flowers, they stacked them on top of each other in several layers. Indeed, at first glance it seemed that there were far fewer flowers than usual, until one noticed that they were lying in piles.

Later it turned out that there was another goal – to arrange the flowers so that they could be raked as quickly as possible with snow shovels and a tractor bucket.

Last year 2021 society activists “9maijs.lv” late in the evening moved the flowers and even made a red star out of them, but this year the authorities did not let the activists pass. They tried to prevent any symbols and turn the Victory Day celebration into a political show of support for Ukraine, for which they even passed a special law.

Red is forbidden

It was forbidden to wear anything that could remind one of Russia or the USSR in the mind of a sick person. A woman was fined 350 euros for wearing a long red scarf. Children were required to take off their side caps, even though some police officers might have them on. At first the flags of Ukraine were also forbidden, but then they apologized and stopped prohibiting them. They wanted to detain the man with the Russian flag, but they could not find a suitable article on camera and let him go. He was arrested a little later, already without cameras, charging him with the article about justification of genocide. It turns out that the flag of the Russian Federation is already genocide. I wonder what if Navalny came out with the flag of Russia? There were many such excesses, but they would not have led to any consequences had it not been for the repressive actions of the authorities, because the Vlasovites and the Banderovites did not interact with each other. Those who wanted to, bypassed the Ukrainians. The crowd successfully held its own, and it seemed it could have held its own for as long as it wanted.

Many of those who came with flowers passed on the words of the vendors: “We are forbidden to sell flowers in red. The whole thing began to smell like a horror story and an anti-utopia. You can prohibit red roses and tulips, but you can’t prohibit thinking, thinking, you can’t prohibit the mind, memory, conscience! You cannot forbid being human. All these bans turn against those who forbid them, showing only their powerlessness before the truth.

Towards nightfall, utility workers stood along the flowers, and they were not working, just standing in a wall. It seemed strange, even inappropriate, especially considering that the police officers were standing in different places and walking quietly around the square. At the same time, the utility workers stood as if they were preparing to repel some kind of attack or a soccer game was going on. Apparently, their superiors assumed that people’s activists would come and try to move the flowers.

This went on for quite a long time. At night, there were fewer people on the square in front of the Monument and the utility workers left.

Countering vandalism

The members of the Night Watch – people who did not know each other at all, but who became friends on the spot and volunteered to be on duty in order to protect the monument from vandals – monitored the square in front of the monument and successfully foiled attempts by some nationally anxious representatives to desecrate it. And there were such attempts. For example, one nationalist came with a dog and tried to walk it among the laid flowers.

State vandalism

The situation was calming down, but it was only an appearance. By morning there were only five Night Watch activists left, four of whom were from the Workers’ Front of Latvia. At exactly 5:00 the employees of “Rīgas dārzi” rushed in, brought their equipment and began to clean up the still very fresh flowers, which they had deliberately put in piles before, in a lewd way, with a special exasperation. They shamelessly walked over the flowers, carelessly tossed them from the stone numbers “1941–1945”, which meant nothing to them, knocked over the candles, raked everything with shovels and threw. It was not cleaning up wilted flowers (the flowers were fresh!), but without exaggeration a real act of vandalism.

Flowers laid in memory of the dead, whether in a cemetery or at a monument, are as sacred as a national banner. Such sacred objects are disposed of according to certain rules, slowly, with certain honors and respect. You can’t just take an old flag and burn it with the rest of the garbage. In this case, the flowers were not disposed of, but destroyed on purpose, in order to sting, bite, humiliate society, drive the common people, who do not respond to the nationalist rhetoric of the authorities, into a corner, suppress them and mute them. This was obvious to the Night Watch participants and to the locals who came during the cleanup. The police kept the activists away from the flowers, while the tractor swept them away and threw them into the back of the truck, driving right over the lit candles. There was a crackling sound of glass, and wax was leaking onto the stones. Remarkably, an inflatable white pigeon, a symbol of peace, was also hit. Perhaps that is the most vivid and self-speaking illustration of the authorities’ attitude toward their own people – they don’t want peace, they choose war.

The crowd voiced their indignation, blamed the police and the vandals with shovels, and cursed them. The cops looked a little to the side and smiled evilly. When it was pointed out to them, they tried to wipe the smile off their faces. But it was clear who was on whose side. They were not obeying orders out of duty; vandalism gave them pleasure.

At 5:45, the vandals left, leaving behind dust and shards of glass. A local woman immediately came up to the monument and quietly laid the first bouquet. In a few hours, the entire square will be strewn with flowers again…

Floral revenge

Waking up on May 10 and hearing the terrible news, Riga spontaneously and en masse began to come to Victory Park and lay flowers. Even those who had never been to the park came. Russians and Latvians alike were outraged by the actions of the authorities. The government did not expect this, so everyone was able to lay flowers in person – carefully, not piling everything up. All day long, people quietly walked around the square, strewn with flowers. And even the nationalists with flags, who came under police protection, did not cause a danger of conflict. The crowd just kept them away from the Monument. No one wanted to turn the celebration into some kind of showdown.

Demonstration of power

After 10 at night the police received an order to force people out of the Park. A special battalion of the state police was also involved. There were no legal grounds for this, because there is no law or rule forbidding walking in the park or laying flowers at any memorial. But the state is first and foremost a repressive apparatus, an instrument of oppression in the hands of the ruling class, and here it decided to reveal its essence – its dictatorship. The police pushed the people further and further away, but the people did not disperse, especially since the police did not make any demands.

At a certain point, not on the square, but on the grass, there was a conversation between the people and the police. People rightly expressed indignation and accused the police of carrying out illegal orders and indulging in lawlessness. In view of the extremely low level of education and poor legal training of the pecial Battalion officers, they had very little to say. At one point they took out their cell phones and began reading the law. After shamelessly accusing the gathering of an illegal picket, the police were told that in that case the people who gathered at the sea in the summer were also participants in the picket. Then the police changed their tactics and accused the crowd of “glorification of criminal regimes. To the question “why?” the police gave the answer: “Because some of you were singing songs”. At one moment the policeman got angry with one of the people, a Latvian by nationality, and started shouting at him, on what he was calmly told that he was behaving unprofessionally. The policeman shut up.

So they didn’t say anything else interesting. But they didn’t need to; the task of the cops was not to enforce the law (nonsense!), they were just mindlessly carrying out an illegal order like some private military corporation or security firm.

Some police officers tried to speak discreetly to individuals in the crowd, swearing that the flowers would lie on the square and that this time no one would touch them.

The park is back in the hands of the Night Watch

An hour later the riot police disappeared and people again approached the Monument to protect the flowers. At three o’clock in the morning there was a prearranged attempt to desecrate the flowers by an intruder on a bicycle, but he was turned in to the police. After hearing the Watch participants talk, several vandals in vehicles abandoned their attempts to desecrate the Monument and retreated.

Closing the Park

On the evening of the same day (11 May) the whole territory of the Park was closed with a fence. The police stated that the access to the Park was closed till 31 August and that the control over the “object” was taken over by the Department of the State Police for Protection of Special Objects. On May 12 the parliament passed a criminal decision in favor of destroying the memorial, unilaterally withdrawing from the agreement with the Russian Federation of 1994 on mutual protection of monuments and graves. This was just what the Riga City Council was waiting for, which decided to “dismantle” the Monument to the Liberators of Latvia from Fascism the very next day, May 13.

Eternal shame on the collaborators of fascism! Eternal glory to the heroes of the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 – the fair, liberating war of the Soviet people for freedom and independence of the socialist homeland against Nazi Germany and its allies!