Riot was prepared in advance “to some extent” – Riga Police Chief

RIGA, Jan 14 (LETA) – Last night’s riot in Riga Old Town were “prepared in advance to some extent”, but then spontaneously developed into violence as a result of the mob effect – a few persons felt they could start hooligan actions, and the mob followed suit, the State Police Riga Region Headquarters Chief Andris Dzenis said in an interview on Latvian State Radio this morning.

Dzenis admitted that the police were informed about possible violence, but initially sent to Riga Old Town as much police force “as was at our disposal”. Initially, 200 police officers were assigned to keep the peace in Old Town last night, but later all the available Riga Region’s police forces were sent to the scene.

Asked why the Saeima was not fenced off before the start of the rally to prevent mob from storming the building, Dzenis replied that first the police have to analyze the cause of the riot and only then it would evaluate officers’ actions and decisions. Dzenis pointed out that protecting the Saeima building was the Military Police’ responsibility and that the State Police only got involved after it observed that control over the situation had been lost.

Interviewers also asked Dzenis, why nobody was arrested during the peaceful protest on Dome Square, for example, the provocateur, who was waving the Russian flag and throwing eggs in the crowd. To this Dzenis answered that primarily it was the responsibility of the rally organizers – “Society for Different Politics” to ensure order during the protest campaign. They had the option to turn to police for help in case of emergency, but this did not happen.

Dzenis also pointed out that Riga Old Town is actually not the best place where to organize mass events, as it is difficult for ambulances to provide medical assistance to the injured.

The chief pledged that the police would do everything possible to prevent violent riots and to ensure public order in Riga.

The police lifted the high alert in Riga shortly after midnight and no significant misdemeanors were registered after that, Dzenis explained, adding that it was the first time in his career that the police of the capital city announced an overall emergency situation.

As already reported, an estimated 10,000 people participated in a mass rally on the Dome Square yesterday afternoon, demanding dissolution of the parliament.

After the rally ended, several hundred persons, many intoxicated, rampaged through Old Town. smashing windows, demolishing cars and looting a “Latvijas Balzams” liquor store. 106 were detained.