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November 21, 2005

POLAND: A First-Hand Account of an Official Gay-Bashing

On November 19 in the Polish city of Poznan, an entirely peaceful March for Equality organized by gays and lesbians and left-wing groups, which had been banned, took place anyway -- but it was brutally broken up by the police, who arrrested 68 of the marchers. Demonstrators protested against discrimination based on sexual Richard_robelny orientation, gender, race, andLech_kaczynski_hands_raised_2  disability. In banning the march, the mayor of Poznań, Ryszard Grobelny (left), surrendered to the demands of far-right parties (including the ruling Law and Justice Party and the League of Polish Families) and the Catholic clergy, who believed the demonstration was "immoral," the independent Radio Polonia reported.

On October 23, Poland had elected a virulently homophobic new president -- the Law and Justice party's Lech Kacyzynski (upper right), who in his previous job as Mayor of Warsaw had banned that city's Gay Pride march. The 68 arrested marchers could face fines of up to 5,000 zlotys (US$1500) or up to one month in prison, according to Miroslaw Adamski, spokesman for the district prosecutor's office in Poznan. Poznan's repression of this gay-organized march signals that the gloves are off under the new homophobic government, and provides a frightening picture of the climate in Poland today.

Tomek What follows is a first-hand account of the repression of the Poznan march by Tomasz Szypula (left), Secretary-General of the Polish Campaign Against Homophobia (KPH), which the KPH e-mailed me this morning:

"I'm 25. I was born four months before the Solidarity began its revolution in August 1980. The only Poland I can remember is time after 1989. The time of democracy.  At least until last Saturday.

"In the morning of Saturday, Nov. 19, I arrived in Poznan to take part in a Days of Equality conference and the Equality March. Already on Friday I learned that the leftist voivode [A voivode is one of Poland's 16 regional governments--D.I.], or a central government representative, had agreed with the mayor of Poznan and upheld his ban of the march. But I had confidence in the Constitution, the EU laws - for sure the police would protect us.

"There were some 100 people at the conference, university students, mainly girls. Most of them had no affiliation, while the rest were feminists from the Konsola Women Association, the Greens 2004 activists, several people from gay organizations from all over Poland. We're talking about exclusion of not only gays and lesbians, but newsRainbow_flag_2 
media and politicians referred to the Days of Equality as 'the Gay
Parade.'

"At 3 p.m., we're walking out of the Bookarest bookstore and we're going down the Polwiejska Street. We're just several hundred meters away from the Old Market Square.There may be several hundred of us. Maybe three, maybe five hundred. After just several minutes the police stand in our way, both in front of us and behind us as well. We're surrounded and can't move. We're shouting: 'Let us through! Freedom! Equality! Tolerance!' The people behind the police officers yell: 'Faggot! Perverts!' Eggs begin to fly. I get one on the ear. I wipe it off. The ear hurts a little, but it's nothing - I continue: 'Tolerance!'

Poznan_gay_demoPhoto left, Poznan police charge the gay demonstators

"After a moment we realize that the police will not let us go anywhere. So we begin walking around between the police cordons and shout: 'Democracy all around!' After half an hour of walking like that, waving rainbow flags, and shouting 'Equal, but Different,' we take out candles and light them. Several hundred people hold the candles and shout: "This is a funeral of democracy." After a moment, the girls who lead this demonstration enter a podium and begin thanking people for coming to the march. We're all wondering how to get out. And that's when it began.

"I turn around and see disguised police offices with shields, running to get us. I grab my friends and we all sit on the street. The policeman tries to pull a girl out of the crowd. She's screaming, but the guy is two meters tall and she gives up. I'm holding on to the other people and then a disguised police guy grabs my leg. Someone's holding me' but he's trying to pull me out. He's shoving me around on the street and I say: "Let me go!' When I get up, the police office grabs my hands, takes them behind me, and pushes me in the direction of a car. I'm scared. There's some eight people at the prison van. 'Name!' the police officer wants to know. 'Szypula,' I'm trying to answer. The girl next to me is weeping. Another one is vomiting. The crying one bursts out in tears. I hold her, her name is Dabrowka. 'Don't worry, they won't do anything to us,' I say. Dabrowka is 20 and she was at the march with her sister, who was also detained. They're both college students who came to show their solidarity with the march.

Poland_map_3 "They're speeding us to the police station, the siren's on. There are some nine people in the van. I call my boyfriend and say: 'They're driving me to a police station. Love you, call you later.' A dread-haired guy turns pale. We stop, the door opens. The police officer reads out our names. We're taken to the third floor. There are 22 people in the room, including us. I don't know where I am. Somebody from Poznań looks out the window and says that it's the Poznan-New City police station. The pale dread-haired guy asks for water.

"During the interrogation, I learn I'm suspected of breaking Article 50 of the Misdemeanors Code. I reply that I don't understand. The policewoman answers: 'taking part in an illegal concourse.' She's asking me how I plead to the charge. I can't stand it any longer: 'What about the Constitution, what about the EU laws, what about the freedom of gathering?' She replies that it's her job. A phone interrupts the
interrogation, it's her boyfriend on the phone. 'Honey, we won't make it to the movies - I still need to hear from six of them," she says. I'm angry. I plead not guilty. I'm starting a speech about the Constitution blah blah, the EU blah blah, citizens' rights. She writes it all down unemotionally.

"I sign in the box that states 'Suspect.' I get out of the station. I feel horrible. I wonder what is less horrible - to be beaten by a far-right fanatic from the All-Polish Youth [the attack-dog militia -- including many skinheads -- of the League of Polish Families party-- D.I.] or to go through the police procedure. I think I prefer to get a beating.I get back to the Old Town. At Cafe Miesna, there's a concert going on as part of the Days of Equality. We share our stories with other demonstrators. My friends were taken to a different station. We try to calm down.

"Seven brave girls my age organized this march. It wasn't a gay demo, and there were more girls there. But the mayor, the voivode, and bishop concluded that we pose a threat. The police treated us like they treat football hooligans. If that's the beginning of the 'New Republic' as Law and Justice' Party politicians say, then yes, we're a big
danger to it. Because we believe in democracy." -- Tomasz Szypula

For background on Poland's new ultraconservative and homophobic regime, see these previous DIRELAND articles: October 28: "Is Poland's New President Another Putin, or Another Peron?"; October 25, "Poland Could Lose E.U. Rights Over New Leadership's Homophobia"; October 24, "Poland Elects a Hard-Right, Homophobic President"

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Direland has a first hand account on the homophobic crackdown in Poznan I wrote about earlier: At 3 p.m., were walking out of the Bookarest bookstore and were going down the Polwiejska Street. Were just several hundred meters awa... [Read More]

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Comments

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Posted by: laptop battery | Oct 12, 2008 10:21:51 PM

Kick Poland out of the EU. NOW!!

Posted by: Vic Friman | Nov 14, 2006 12:54:45 PM

The spirit of Solidarity is still alive in Poland. This weekend many demonstrations supporting gay rights were carried out in several Polish big cities. Demonstrations were attended by many politicians, artists, and people well recognized in the fights for human rights and democracy. Let’s hope that all these demonstrations are not simply actions against the policies of the new government but a deep understanding that to preserve human rights, the rights of all humans must be guarded.
See pictures from today’s demonstrations at this address:
http://serwisy.gazeta.pl/fotografie/5,35076,3035332.html?i=0
Ryszard Romaniuk

Posted by: Ryszard Romaniuk | Nov 27, 2005 10:56:55 AM

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