Veterans of the SS Waffan division who fought for Nazi Germany during World War II marched through Riga with their supporters amid protest from anti-fascist organizations.
The procession was attended by several hundred veterans of the SS Waffan division, their supporters and members of parliament from the ‘All for Latvia’ Party who marched from the Cathedral to the center of Riga. Unlike previous years the procession was a peaceful affair.
Anti-Nazi demonstrators also gathered to put flowers at the feet of the city’s Freedom monument in silence, while activists wearing striped prison overalls with war photos hanging around their necks.
An 1,000-strong police force drafted in by the local authorities lined the streets to keep the peace.
The march takes place on the 16 March every year and traditionally begins with a Remembrance service in Riga’s cathedral.
The event is the product of much controversy in Latvian society where one third of the population is ethnically Russian.
Vice speaker from the Latvian parliament, Andrey Klementyev called the procession a “disgrace for Latvia” and said it saddened him the fact that MPs had attended the event.
Seven processions had originally been scheduled for Friday but in view of a possible threat to public safety municipal authorities did not allow them.
The march had previously been banned by the municipal authorities, but the ruling was reversed on Tuesday by the Latvian court.
The Latvian legion of the SS Waffas consisted of almost 150 thousand Latvians and was split into two divisions. It was among the last of Nazi Germany’s forces to surrender in 1945.