Thousands of people took to the streets of the Latvian capital of Riga to take part in a torchlight parade organized by the National Alliance party to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the Latvian state.
While about 2,000 people indicated that they intended to attend the event on its Facebook page, Latvia’s LETA news agency reports that the actual number was much higher. The National Alliance, the nationalist party that organized the event, put the number of participants at 17,000.
At the same time, some witnesses said on Twitter that the number of people participating in the procession reached 15,000. The event was largely attended by Latvia’s youth, as well as people in military uniforms without insignias, but elderly people and families with children were also seen among the attendees.
The demonstrators gathered near a monument to Karlis Ulmanis, a controversial Latvian leader from the pre-World War II era who is seen as a dictator by leftist Latvians and a prominent politician by the right. A hard rock band called ‘Livi’, which is known for its nationalist and anti-Soviet views, gave a concert by the statue.
The event was also attended by the leader of the nationalist All for Latvia! group, Raivis Dzintars, who is also a member of a National Socialist group called the Daugavas Vanagi (the Daugava Hawks), which calls itself an organization of former Waffen SS Legion veterans. Dzintars gave a speech at the gathering.
The people then marched to Latvia’s Freedom Monument bearing burning torches while chanting “We are Latvians!” Some people came to the event with their own lamps, although the organizers provided thousands of specially prepared torches for those who didn’t.