Recently, Poland’s LGBT community and its supporters took to the streets in protest. It is a reaction to the growing trend of increased hateful rhetoric and actions expressed publicly by various organisations, politicians as well as by Poland’s President Andrzej Duda and was fueled by the recent court ruling against an LGBT activist.
A lorry regularly drives around Warsaw displaying obscene defamatory messages about LGBT people, including that homosexuality is the same as pedophilia. The lorry is funded by the organisation ‘Pro – right to life’, which is connected internationally to extreme Catholic movements that have gained significant influence over Polish politics.
After winning power in 2015, the Law and Justice Party (PiS) introduced a series of unconstitutional changes to the legal system, subordinating the courts to the prosecutor’s office which is under the control of the ruling party. For many years, politicians from the ruling party have made hateful comments about LGBT people. This included the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda, who said during the recent presidential election campaign that LGBT are not the people, that is an ideology.
The increasing aggressive propaganda of the authorities towards LGBT people has instigated resistance among those defending freedom and have come out to defend non-heteronormative people. This resistance has included hanging rainbow flags in public places, including on monuments and statues
A few days ago the courts made the shocking decision to charge an activist from an LGBT organisation for two months imprisonment for vandalizing the lorry that was propagating obscene homophobic propaganda. The activist is a transsexual (a non-binary person) who goes by the pseudonym of Margot. For many it had become obvious that the authorities were trying to scare LGBT people and the whole of society by showing that resistance against it will be met with force and carried out without respect for democratic standards and rules.
In response to the court’s ruling to detain Margot, many LGBT activists and supporters took to the streets in protest. Margot did not hide from the police and on Friday 7th of August she informed them that she was at the headquarters of an LGBT organisation. Despite her announcement the police did not arrest Margot and she was only taken by the police when a spontaneous demonstration in her defense was ongoing, giving the impression that this was an act of provocation. The demonstrators tried to block the police vans which held Margot and they hung rainbow flags on the nearby statue of Nicolaus Copernicus. The police broke up the demonstration behaving as if they were a party militia, which was carrying out political orders. Those taking part in the demonstration, including left-wing MPs and journalists, were treated brutally, with individuals being pushed to the ground and pulled from the demonstration despite them not being violent themselves. The police deployed the tactic of kneeling on people’s necks (similar to that used by the police in the USA against George Floyd), dragging demonstrators along the ground and taking them away to unknown places. Around 50 people were formally detained, accused of taking part in an ‘illegal demonstration’. They were refused or obstructed from making contact with friends, relatives or lawyers. In response the Ombudsman has initiated an investigation into the behaviour of the police.
It is obvious that the conservative right, which has held power during the past five years, and strengthened its position after the recent presidential elections, intends to rule in a more authoritarian manner against the rights of its citizens. It is cementing its social support through maintaining and building xenophobic and homophobic stereotypes and escalating hateful emotions. Tensions are building in Poland and it is not possible to stand idly by. We must show our solidarity with LGBT people and all those who are opposing the growth of right-wing conservatism and nationalism in Poland today.