Poland experiences wave of protests after arrest of LGBT activist

Poland experiences wave of protests after arrest of LGBT activist

LGBT activist holds the rainbow flag, symbol of the community, on a statue while holding a sign with the words

© Beata Zawrzel / NurPhoto / Getty Images
LGBT activist holds the rainbow flag, symbol of the community, on a statue while holding a sign with the words

A two-month prison sentence for an activist LGBT sparked a wave of protests and new arrests of protesters in the Poland, last weekend. The country is experiencing a series of conflicts between left and right militants this second group defends the “traditional family” and a “strong country”.

Margot, as the activist is known, is a trans woman who was arrested in late June for hanging rainbow colored flags, LGBT symbol, on religious statues; having punctured the tires of a van with homophobic slogans (belonging to an anti-abortion entity), in addition to painting the vehicle and putting colored bands on it. At the time, she was released after paying bail.

However, on Friday (7), the court ruled that she would be arrested again, serving a 2-month sentence. The activist’s arrest was the trigger for a big protest on Saturday (8) in Warsaw, the capital of Poland. The demonstrators aim to draw the attention of the European Union and the world to the LGBTfobia institutionalized no country.

Protesters protesting for LGBT rights in Warsaw, Poland

© Omar Marques / Getty Images
Protesters protesting for LGBT rights in Warsaw, Poland

An example of the problem is more than 100 Polish cities that have already promised, according to activists, “to discourage tolerance” and to avoid transferring public resources to entities that fight homophobia or that fight for equal rights. In addition, six of these municipalities have already declared themselves to be “LGBT-free zones” – that is, municipalities where there is open discrimination against homosexual, bisexual and transsexual people.

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Last week, the European Commission even rejected requests for subsidies from these cities, but the act was seen as symbolic, as there are still a hundred municipalities hostile to the LGBT community.

In addition, the government of the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party has taken several actions to limit homosexual rights, such as the ban on same-sex adoption and marriage. To add, the president Andrzej Duda, during his re-election campaign, promised to ban the teaching of “gender issues” in schools and stated in speeches that homosexuals were “worse enemies than communists” and that “they are trying to convince us that they are people”.

Demonstrations in favor of LGBT rights are already being called “Poland’s Stonewall”, referring to Revolta de Stonewall, from 1969, which is considered a milestone in the struggle for respect for LGBT people and the beginning of the existing movement to the present day.

Protester holds poster written

© Omar Marques / Getty Images
Protester holds poster written “Polish Stonewall”, in reference to the Stonewall Uprising, a milestone in the struggle for LGBT rights. Activist participates in human rights protests in Poland last Saturday (8).

Police brutality during the demonstrations is also being reported through social media. Some of the protesters were beaten and another 48 people, who were trying to prevent Margot’s arrest, were arrested. Watch the video below:

MEPs pressure the European Union

While the streets were taken by protesters against the LGBT phobia that existed in the country, in the European Parliament deputies dressed in clothes with the colors of the LGBT flag, in order to demonstrate in favor of the rights of the community. The act took place during an event attended by President Andrzej Duda.

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Parliamentarians also pressure the European Union to impose sanctions on Poland, “for widespread and persistent violations of the rule of law, fundamental rights and EU values”.

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Miłość jest miłością • Love and respect to the Polish MPs who co-ordinated their outfits; creating a rainbow flag to make a stand at the swearing-in of their anti-LGBTQ President Andrzej Duda. A post shared by York Pride (@yorkpride) on Aug 7, 2020 at 1:15pm PDT

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In a social network, the flight attendant Dunja Mijatovic, from the Council of Europe, a human rights organization, called for Margot’s release, saying the detention “sends a scary signal about freedom of expression and LGBT rights in Poland”.

Michael Simecka, parallel rapporteur on Poland in the European Parliament, also spoke out against the arrests of activists. “The arrests are an excellent example of how human rights violations go hand in hand with the destruction of independent judicial oversight in the country.”

As for the MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld, vice president of the LGBTI intergroup and coordinator at the Civil Liberties Commission, the conflicts over the past few days show an advance by the government “to the next level of its homophobic campaign”. “We are moving quickly from hate speech to really arresting and intimidating people. It is not just about the deliberate dismantling of the democratic rule of law, it is also an act of challenge to the EU ”, he says.

Homophobia disguised as nationalism

In addition to the demonstrations that broke out after Margot’s conviction, Poland experienced another very emblematic situation. On August 1, right-wing activists marched in celebration of the 76th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising that happened during the Second World War and it was an armed struggle to free the city from Nazi control.

The point is that right-wing militants use nationalist ideology to also protest against LGBT rights. During the demonstration, which was called the Warsaw Uprising March, the protesters held signs with the words “end of totalitarianism” referring to LGBT and left-wing demands as a totalitarian dictatorship , “Normal family, strong Poland” and “national movement”.

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Many participants sang the slogans “Once with a scythe, once with a hammer, a red scum” and “It’s not a rainbow, it’s not red, just national Poland”. They also set fire to an LGBT flag.

Right-wing demonstrators extend a banner with the words

© Omar Marques / Getty Images
Right-wing protesters extend a banner with the words “End of totalitarianism”, with symbols against communism, against Nazism and, finally, against the LGBT community, placing the three “ideologies” on the same level.

At the time, there were also conflicts between right and left demonstrators. Pro-LGBT and feminist activists hung the rainbow flag and banners with the words “stand up against fascism” and “feminism, not fascism” on the windows of a building, in front of where nationalist activists passed. In response, right-wing protesters threw bottles at the building and threatened left-wing activists, who were accused by the police of “disturbing the order”.

Petition raises more than 500 thousand signatures

An petition with the objective of abolishing anti-LGBT laws existing in Poland, in addition to protecting the community and calling on the European Union to intervene in the country, it has already obtained almost 600 thousand signatures – by the time of publication of this article.

The text of the petition states that “Poland’s LGBT community suffers from homophobia and transphobia on the part of politicians, religious and leaders and from the lack of protection laws”. It further says: “We demand that the Polish government take measures against homophobia and pass laws that protect LGBT people in schools, workplaces and put an end to current homophobic and transphobic laws, such as the ‘LGBT free zones’ and the proposed ‘banning the spread of LGBT ideology’, which is a form of censorship ”.

Talking bad news to the kids


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