The court verdict regarding the march in Kaunas – the municipality must coordinate the route

The case was heard on July 29th. The applicant, a trade union on 1 May, was supported by a group of rallies gathered at the courthouse.

It took only one meeting – the next day, on July 30, the decision of the panel of judges on the annulment of the municipal letters and the obligation of the municipality to take action was announced.

“I am not the president of the court. For me, all the people living in the city are the people of Kaunas. Whether children, or women, or men. It’s not necessarily about advertising and doing everything here. It is necessary to live beautifully and normally ”, – Kaunas Mayor Visvaldas Matijošaitis did not want to comment on the situation before announcing the decision.

The march must be coordinated

The court ordered the municipality to coordinate the march route by 11 a.m. on Sept. 1. According to the panel of judges, peaceful assemblies of citizens cannot be banned.

The municipality is obliged to coordinate the route of the march, which will start in Independence Square, near the Cathedral. A column of march participants will march to the 99th house on Laisvės Alley, turn around and return to the square.

According to the court, the municipality has not proved that organizing the march only in Laisvės Alley could violate public order. By not coordinating this route, the municipal administration violated constitutional law.

“In the opinion of the panel of judges, no objective evidence was provided, no objective reasons were given that the restriction of the march would violate public order, and the public interest would not be ensured.

The court, having assessed all the evidence in the case, concluded that the measure taken to restrict the march on Laisvės Alley, which is the usual venue for marches and other events, was a disproportionate measure and violated the applicant’s right to peaceful rallies, ”said Janina. Vitunskiene.

The municipality has 30 days to appeal this court decision.

Rejected three possible routes

15min recalls that the trial began when the march organizers and Kaunas City Municipality could not find an agreement on where the LGBT community march could take place in the city in September – the municipality, together with the police, rejected several proposals for a possible venue, march route.

The first was rejected because the route led through Vilniaus Street, which was being repaired on July 12, and the second – because one of the most intensive transport arteries – St. Gertrūdos Street – and the residents would suffer disproportionately great inconveniences.

The third – only on Laisvės Alley – was not suitable “for many reasons” either.

According to the organizers of the event, the municipality acts selectively in this way and “pays attention to the interests of businesses or self-interested groups, not vulnerable groups”.

Such non-cooperation of the municipality allegedly violates the right to freely choose peaceful meetings, to freely express one’s beliefs and views. On May 1, the trade union sued the administration of Kaunas City Municipality.

Feels discriminated against

The applicant is convinced that the refusal to coordinate the march routes due to the alleged unjustified disruption of the smooth traffic in Kaunas and that the Laisvės Alley is too narrow for that purpose is biased and discriminatory.

Laisvės Alley has hosted a number of mass events in recent years. Moreover, on the same September 4, a celebration for families is planned in the same place, where twice as many spectators and participants are planned – about 6 thousand. The applicant found out about this event only in court, and it was not mentioned during the negotiations.

Photo by Karolina Stažytė / Rally organized in court in Kaunas – demands to issue a permit for the march

The applicant requested the court to order the Kaunas City Municipality administration to coordinate the march route immediately, but not later than three days before the planned meeting.

We want to start the meeting at the monument “Freedom Soldier”, go to Jonavos Street, St. Gertrūdos Street, Laisvės Alley and end the march between St. Archangel Mykolas (Crew) Church (Soboro) and Mykolas Žilinskas Art Galleries.

If this could not be achieved, the applicant requested that the municipality be ordered to coordinate another route starting from St. Church of the Archangel Michael (Crew) (Soboro). It is planned to go one side of Laisvės Alley and return the other.

The participants of the march would allegedly move from Laisvės Alley to the house of Laisvės Alley 99 and return back on the same road.

Marches, which would be attended by 1-3 thousand. people, scheduled to run from 12 to 5 p.m.

Sees risk threats

Paulius Keras, Deputy Director of Kaunas Municipality Administration 15min has argued that the law cannot restrict freedom of expression and prohibit such marches that the municipality is neither ‘for’ nor ‘against’ the importance of human security.

“Analyzing the specific route of the march proposed by the applicant, the specialists comprehensively assess all the circumstances existing in the indicated territory, ie the ongoing repair and reconstruction works (in Vilnius Street, Laisvės Alley and other areas of the Old Town).

As a result, the city is rich in traffic restrictions, pedestrian crossings are difficult or even completely closed in some places, and inconveniences are caused to local residents and employees of companies and other organizations located here.

First of all, we must ensure public safety, public order, and the protection of human health, so we did not coordinate the specific place of the march, where there are currently restrictions on movement and it is not possible for a large number of people to walk safely, ”Kerer explained.

Kaunas municipality believes that the marches that can take place in Laisvės Alley alone would be hindered by the managed defects of the pavement and the expanded customer service area of ​​the outdoor cafes on the terraces, the increased flow of people. It is alleged that the construction of the alley is not one hundred percent complete, this object must be handed over by the contractor by the autumn.

The Kaunas County Police also sees the risks due to the location and movement of the march participants.

“The municipality’s argument about security is discriminatory. It is not absolute. Laisvės Alley is probably the safest place in Kaunas. If we had always thought only about security, maybe even the 13th of January would not have happened, ”Jurgis Valiukevičius, the leader of the May 1st trade union, replied.

According to the organizers of the event, the municipality contradicts itself by allowing even more events, and the defects in Laisvės Alley have already been fixed, the processions could even benefit the cafes, at least in other countries.

The first march in Kaunas

About the fact that Kaunas is planning to hold the first marches in this city with the slogan “We are everywhere”, The LGBTQ + community began to speak louder in May.

The organizers of the march assured at the event that they wanted to emphasize that LGBTQ + people exist everywhere and it is not just a “capital fashion affair”. Activists hope that other cities and towns will start organizing such events.

Kaunas 3 thousand. participants (this number was indicated by the organizers when applying for a permit from the municipality) LGBTQ + community marches are planned for the first time.

They would supposedly take place as a continuation of the Vilnius Pride march held in the capital last year.

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