“As well as flying flags from properties, Lithuanians took to social media to share their pride with the hashtag #lgbtdraugiškalietuva (LGBT Friendly Lithuania).”
A number of arson attacks, first on a gay organisation and then on a gay film director, have sparked outrage in Lithuania.
After the headquarters of the national LGBT+ organisation, the Lithuania Gay League were set on fire on August 10, Lithuanian director Romas Zabarauskas hung the pride flag from his balcony. The corridor to his apartment was then set on fire in the middle of the night on September 2.
Police advised Zabarauskas to remove the flag “before the whole house burns down”. A few days later, a different floor in his building was subject to another arson attack. The police finally agreed to investigate a connection between these attacks.
In response to the arson attacks, Zabarauskas decided to distribute as many pride flags as possible to help show solidarity to the LGBT+ community. It is difficult and expensive to obtain a Pride flag in Lithuania so once word got out on their availability, the flags were gone within half an hour.
Zabarauskas was overwhelmed by the response, as he told Gay Star News: “People started to unfurl the rainbow flags immediately.”
Once the first batch was sold out, Zabarauskas reached out to his sponsors in the film industry and together they were able to raise enough money to buy another batch of 500.
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Labas rytas, Romai. Turi mano palaikymą, prisijungiu prie 500 balkonų akcijos. Čia ta pati vėliava, kuri pakabinau ant savivaldybės balkono. Dabar kabo ant mano. Ačiū, kad kovoji už visų mūsų teisęs, laisvę ir lygybę. Su pasididžiavimu esu tavo kaimynas. Tikuosi mano namo gyventojai supras šios akcijos svarbą. We do not negotiate with terrorists. If they attack one flag, we raise 500. #lgbtdraugiškalietuva
The flags were distributed in Vilnius, the country’s capital, while a batch was kept for distribution outside of the city. As well as flying them from properties, people took to social media to share their pride with the hashtag #lgbtdraugiškalietuva (LGBT Friendly Lithuania).
The director told Gay Star News: “I’m certainly overwhelmed with all the support, and to be honest I think it’s quite amazing that we decided to turn this situation into something positive.”
He added: “The whole solidarity initiative we organised does make me feel safer. For example, now three buildings surrounding mine have unfurled rainbow flags: we’re not alone anymore”.
While Lithuania has been ranked one of the worst countries in the European Union when it comes to LGBT+ rights, Zabarauskas believes the recent visibility will help the cause: “Lithuania is on its way to progress and prosperity. The more LGBT people are becoming visible, the more we are accepted, so we’re on the right track.”
© 2018 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.
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