Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, shimmered with all the colors of the rainbow this Saturday, celebrating the end of the Baltic Pride 2022 festival with the main attraction—the March for Equality and Peace. The event, which rotates in all three Baltic countries, was hosted in Vilnius for the fifth time from May 31st till June 4th.
Over 10K people joined the march the last time in Vilnius in 2019 which was a significant boost in comparison to the first march in 2010 where the event drew a crowd of only a couple hundred. Given that all pandemic restrictions have been lifted, the crowd was even bigger this time around.
Among those who participated in the parade were Lithuanian and foreign diplomats, Remigijus Šimašius, Mayor of Vilnius, Marianne Borgen, Mayor of Oslo, Colin Ratushniak, Mayor of La Ronge (Canada), Ann Linde, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden, Cecilia Brinck, Chairwoman of Stockholm City Council, Jessica Stern, Special Envoy from the U.S., Judy and Dennis Shepard, parents of late Matthew Sheppard, and others.
“I am proud of what we achieved today with the help of Vilnius City Municipality. The support of the city is instrumental in creating a safe and empowering space for the local LGBT+ community. Not only on this wonderful Pride Day but also every day. I am glad that so many different people, organizations, and businesses participated at the March for Equality and Peace and that Baltic Pride is becoming a traditional Vilnius festival,” said Vladimir Simonko, Executive Director of the National LGBT+ rights organization Lithuanian Gay League. “I am sure that the Baltic Pride will continue to grow, and we will be able to use this momentum to encourage protection of LGBT+ human rights and inclusivity.”
According to Mr. Šimašius, Mayor of Vilnius, the city has undergone a profound transformation, and is constantly improving and urging its residents and visitors to be more tolerant and respectul to all communities.
“Vilnius promotes the freedom for everyone to be who they are. The city and its residents have developed a strong sense of tolerance and respect for each other,” said the Mayor. “This festival and the rainbow colors adorning its streets today symbolize both the city’s support to different communities and the perseverance to fight for equal rights.”
Vilnius made numerous city-wide preparations to welcome the LGBT+ community, its residents, and visitors to the festival: a pedestrian crossing in the Old Town was painted in a rainbow palette and one of the streets was renamed to Tolerance Street. The changes are a testament to the capital’s support for the community and prompt Lithuanian authorities to legalize same-sex marriages.
At the same time, Vilnius’ fountains and bridges were illuminated in a colorful rainbow while the traffic lights in the heart of the city flashed in green depicting different and same-sex couples as a symbolic encouragement for all people to feel the freedom to be who they are. Also, five hot-air balloons rode over the city’s skyline carrying rainbow flags.
Leading up to the main parade, residents and visitors of the city were invited to conferences, creative workshops, exhibitions, cultural and educational activities, theatrical performances, and a number of other events aimed at encouraging tolerance and peace.