Vilnius authorities have refused to issue a permit for a rally against coronavirus restrictions planned near the Lithuanian parliament building on September 10.
A day earlier, the State Security Department (VSD) warned about heightened risks that the event could turn violent.
“The city of Vilnius decided to reconsider the permit issued for the September 10 rally due to slight changes in circumstances, the context of a hybrid war. Therefore, today we have decided to revoke the permit issued for the September 10 rally,” Adomas Bužinskas, deputy chief executive officer at Vilnius City Municipality, told reporters on Tuesday.
According to him, the permit was refused because the authorities did not consider the venue – a square opposite the National Library and close to the parliament – to be a suitable one.
“They asked a permit for a rally of up to 15,000 people, and we see that there's no physical space to fit that many people,” Bužinskas said. “We've also received a letter from the National Library, saying that this would disturb their work, we'd have to ensure access [to the library], which further reduces the available area. Moreover, it is clear that [the rally] would disturb the everyday life of the people of Vilnius.”
Bužinskas said the organisers, an organisation called the Lithuanian Family Movement, had asked to hold the rally until 22:00. According to him, poor lighting in the square would not allow police officers to effectively monitor the event.
“The third reason is that, yesterday, the State Security Department published part of its report where it says that there's a heightened risk of disturbances that could lead to violent action. In view of this public part [of the report] and the classified part, which we cannot disclose, we've decided that we cannot take on the responsibility for the safety of [police] officers and other people,” Bužinskas said.
Bužinskas advised the organisers against staging an unauthorised rally. He also said that the organisers had refused to consider an alternative venue for their rally.
The request for a rally permit was reconsidered after another anti-vaccination rally organised by the same group on August 10 turned into a riot.
In May, the Lithuanian Family Movement organised a rally called the Big Family Defence March, where they protested plans to ratify the Istanbul Convention and same-sex civil partnership.