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#PolishStonewall: LGBTQ Activists Are Rallying Collectively After Police Violence at Protests in Warsaw

#PolishStonewall: LGBTQ Activists Are Rallying Together After Police Violence at Protests in Warsaw


As LGBTQ activist Malgorzata Szutowicz, sits in solitary confinement for a fourth day within the metropolis of Plock, central Poland, a whole lot of individuals throughout the nation are protesting in her title. On Friday, Margo, as she is extra generally identified, was positioned in pre-trial detention for 2 months, on prices of assaulting a driver of a truck that displayed an anti-LGBT banner.

The identical day, a whole lot of individuals gathered within the capital, Warsaw, to defend her freedom. In doing so, they have been risking their very own: 48 protestors have been detained and lots of extra injured in what consultants say was an unprecedented stage of police aggression in opposition to an LGBTQ demonstration, notably in a European Union member state.

By Saturday, 1000’s had gathered in Warsaw to denounce Margo’s arrest and police aggression in opposition to LGBTQ individuals. And though Poland is experiencing an increase in new circumstances of COVID-19, at the least 15 solidarity protests, each huge and small, came about on Monday in cities and cities throughout the Poland, in addition to in Budapest and London, New York, Paris and Berlin, with extra deliberate.

Whereas not all activists might agree with Margo’s strategies, her prosecution and imprisonment has been broadly condemned. “These radical actions are part of historical past that has occurred in lots of different nations earlier than,” says Julia Maciocha, chairwoman on the Warsaw-based LGBTQ group Volunteers of Equality Basis. In a nod to the Stonewall Rebellion of 1969 in New York Metropolis, a number of customers on Twitter began posting #PolishStonewall in tweets in regards to the weekend’s occasions and subsequent solidarity protests.

What’s the state of LGBTQ rights underneath Polish President Andrzej Duda?

The weekend protests come amid intensifying anti-LGBTQ rhetoric by authorities officers and state media after the current re-election of President Andrzej Duda. On Aug. 6, the anti-E.U. populist chief was sworn in for a second five-year time period as president on a robust anti-LGBTQ platform, branding LGBTQ rights an “ideology” worse than communism and proposing a “Household Constitution,” together with a vow to dam laws permitting homosexual {couples} to get married or undertake youngsters. The constitution additionally included a ban on “the propogation of LGBTQ ideology in faculties and public establishments,” harking back to Russia’s infamous ‘homosexual propaganda regulation’ in 2013. Such strikes pave the best way for “verbal and bodily assaults in opposition to” the LGBTQ neighborhood, says Hanna-Gill Piatek, a lawmaker from a pro-E.U. political get together, Spring. Adam Bodnar, the Polish Human Rights Commissioner, agrees, saying that “to an excellent extent, LGBT individuals have gotten victims of political life.”

For over a 12 months, the federal government and non secular leaders have used LGBTQ individuals as a “scapegoat,” says Mirosława Makuchowska, head of the Warsaw-based Cease Homophobia Marketing campaign. The Duda-allied Legislation and Justice get together (PiS), which has led Poland since 2015, has constantly railed in opposition to the LGBTQ neighborhood, presenting its members as a menace to household values. (Anti-LGBTQ assaults are usually not thought-about a hate crime by regulation in Poland.)

The church in Poland additionally wields huge affect over training, regulation and politics, and about 86% of the inhabitants establish as Roman Catholic. Marek Jedraszewski, an archbishop, warned final 12 months {that a} “rainbow plague” seeks to “management” the inhabitants. Since 2019, authorities in one-third of cities throughout Poland have adopted resolutions declaring themselves “LGBTQ ideology free zones.” In late July, the European Union introduced it might not present funding to 6 Polish cities that made this declaration.

Rafal Milach—Magnum PhotographsProtestors sit in entrance of police on in Warsaw, Poland Aug. 7, 2020.

What sparked the protests?

On July 14, Margo, who’s a member of the LBTQ activist group Cease Bzdurom (Cease Bullshit), was arrested in Warsaw and accused of assaulting the driving force of a truck selling anti-LGBT propaganda and blaring slurs from loudspeakers, in addition to of damaging the automobile on June 27. She was detained in a single day and launched.

On Aug. 3, police once more arrested Margo, together with different activists, for collaborating in a marketing campaign that coated monuments in Warsaw with rainbow flags. Authorities accused them of “insulting non secular emotions and insulting Warsaw monuments.”

4 days later, on Friday, a courtroom ordered Margo to be positioned in pre-trial detention for 2 months. When the courtroom order got here by way of, she was looking for authorized counsel on the headquarters of a neighborhood group, Marketing campaign In opposition to Homophobia. Though Margo gave herself as much as the police, they didn’t arrest her. From the marketing campaign headquarters, Margo and different activists and protesters then headed to Krakowskie Przedmieście, one of many central streets in Warsaw, the place the Monument of Christ had been coated with a rainbow flag every week earlier, in response to the E.U.’s announcement that it was blocking funds to the six Polish cities that declared themselves “LGBT-free zones.”

Witnesses say that cops in an unmarked police automobile then detained Margo with extreme use of pressure. “This was the final straw,” says LGBTQ rights activist Zośka Marcinek, who tried to stop the automobile from leaving the scene. “Not solely the fees and arrest have been farcical, not solely it was apparent Margot is being focused as a nonbinary/transgender particular person, it was additionally cowardly and brutal,” she says.

What occurred on the protests?

A whole bunch of protesters have been gathered at Krakowskie Przedmieście when Margo was detained on the scene. What began as a peaceable, spontaneous protest quickly escalated into violence, as police began eradicating individuals violently from the location. Protesters—some simply strolling by or standing on the side-walk—have been pushed in opposition to partitions and thrown to the bottom by police, activists say. Police made plenty of “errors” says Bodnar, whose workforce was capable of entry the 33 out of the 48 detained protestors on Saturday when all different guests have been barred. Bodnar says some individuals have been wrongly detained—“one particular person was simply observing the protests, one other was on a procuring journey.”

Marcinek tells TIME {that a} uniformed policeman tripped her over, inflicting her to hit the again of her head on the pavement, earlier than an officer then held her in a chokehold. She was arrested and brought into custody, and says police taunted her with homophobic slurs. Regardless of affected by a concussion, she says she was denied medical help for round eight hours. Makuchowska, the pinnacle of the Warsaw-based Cease Homophobia Marketing campaign, says police pushed her to the bottom, leaving her with a bruised again.

On Twitter, Warsaw’s police pressure mentioned 48 individuals have been detained in reference to insulting a policeman and harm to a police automobile, and that the police had referred to as for “authorized habits” throughout the protests. A report by the Polish Commissioner discovered that many individuals have been interrogated at evening with no entry to authorized help, meals or drink and that a number of detainees had seen physique accidents because of police brutality. Piatek says that police blocked legal professionals from contacting some detainees for hours. A number of left-wing politicians, who intervened on the police stations, have been additionally denied the suitable to data, she says.

Bodnar says that he wouldn’t examine this example with earlier LGBTQ demonstrations, which have been deliberate Pleasure occasions and marches. However he notes an “unequal strategy by the police,” referring to the shortage of police response to marches led by nationalist teams—even when such marches might be seen as selling aggression, like burning an LGBTQ flag. In his view, the police’s response to demonstrations relies on whether or not a sure group is “favored by the authorities or not.”

The Nicolaus Copernicus monument is decorated with rainbow flag
Rafal Milach—Magnum PhotographsThe Nicolaus Copernicus monument is embellished with a rainbow flag.

What occurs subsequent?

Now, Poland’s LGBTQ neighborhood is bracing itself for what’s subsequent. Whereas these detained over the weekend have now been launched from custody, activists say lots of them will seemingly find yourself in courtroom on prices of unlawful gathering. In Polish regulation, that is outlined as a riot through which contributors collectively commit a violent assault on an individual or property — a provision “solely used when a crowd is asking for violent actions,” says Bodnar. However the weekend’s occasions “weren’t like this,” he says.

However, he—like many others—is discovering hope within the solidarity the LGBTQ neighborhood has acquired after the weekend’s protests. What made these protests “totally different” and “spectacular,” he says, was the best way politicians and legal professionals rallied in help. At the very least eight politicians have been current at police stations the place protestors have been detained, he says, whereas legal professionals volunteered to defend them. “Polish authorities didn’t predict that placing Margo in detention would trigger such highly effective protests by the LGBTQ neighborhood and that these protests could be supported by opposition politicians and professional bono legal professionals,” Bodnar says.

In addition to solidarity protests, Poland’s LGBTQ neighborhood is rallying collectively to supply authorized assist and psychological help for the 48 individuals who have been detained. The Marketing campaign In opposition to Homophobia has been recruiting professional bono authorized assist for individuals who have been detained, and an LGBTQ-organized fund for psychological assist has raised 20,000 Polish złoty ($5,345).

However what occurs subsequent for Margo stays unsure and she or he continues to be ready to entry a lawyer whereas in solitary confinement. On the surface, Marcinek, the protester, tells TIME that policemen are randomly visiting and looking out the houses of others who had been detained throughout the protests with out warning or justification. And the broader future for LGBTQ rights in Poland is unclear. “Dwelling in Poland, you may’t predict the long run,” says Maciocha, head of the Volunteers of Equality Basis.

What activists need now could be stronger worldwide solidarity, notably from European governments. Remy Bonny, a Brussels-based LGBTQ rights activist and researcher who focuses on Central and Jap Europe, says “we have now seen this type of violence in Russia and Belarus, for instance, however not in an E.U. nation.” The European Fee ought to condemn police violence in Poland in the identical method it lately denounced the repression of protests in Belarus, he says. Makuchowska says she and different activists are calling on the worldwide neighborhood to “assist us to right away launch Margo.”

Regardless of the current political marketing campaign in opposition to LGBTQ individuals, activists say they really feel that help for this neighborhood is rising and that extra individuals who have been as soon as silent on LGBTQ rights points are actually compelled to talk out on social media or attend solidarity protests. “The neighborhood feels stronger ultimately,” Makuchowska says. “We’re decided to guard ourselves. The sensation is that we’re robust.”