Latvians bang pots to protest virus toll on economy

Riga (AFP) –


Hundreds of Latvian restaurant and cafe workers on Friday banged pots and kettles nationwide to protest what they call inadequate government efforts to counter the economic consequences of the Baltic state's anti-virus measures.

The daily dinnertime initiative in the eurozone member of 1.9 million people is one of several creative demonstrations cooked up by Latvians at a time when traditional protests are impossible because of a ban on public gatherings of more than 25 people.

Those taking part in the so-called #PotRevolution, which was launched Monday by the Latvian restaurant association LRB, have made sure to abide by social distancing rules while banging pots in small groups outside their cafes and restaurants.

LRB vice-president and chef Lauris Aleksejevs said the association started the recurring protest for those "who live in poverty, for those 100,000 teachers and doctors let down by the government even during the COVID-19 crisis."

It is also "for all the creative professionals, and small and medium enterprises, among them 30,000 workers in the catering industry, who have been scorned by the politicians and have received only crumbs of the promised support," he added in the statement.

Regional Development Minister Juris Puce acknowledged that "restaurants are among the most affected, with no foreign tourism for months and most of their usual local clientele not eating out."

"The government also agrees that medical staff and teachers deserve raises, which will hopefully be decided in August," he told AFP on Friday.

In another example of a Latvian demonstration held in line with the anti-virus restrictions, protesters against the proposed site of the new security service headquarters in the capital Riga on Thursday stood in groups of a couple of dozen people to form a loose human chain spanning over five kilometres (three miles).

It was a scaled-down version of the 1989 anti-Soviet Baltic Way protest, which spanned 675 kilometres across the three Baltic countries -- Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.