The Polish LGBTQ+ community desperately needs our help. As of yesterday, Saturday 20th July, Poland had a very revolutionary pride parade, which didn’t last too long. The LGBTQ+ individuals in Poland have been under constant threat.
Here’s what’s happening:
Riot police surrounded the entire parade. There were around 1,000 pride marchers who took walking in defiance through the streets in the city of Bialystok. Multiple thousands of nationalist football ultra fans, far-right groups and others threw flash bombs, rocks and glass bottles at the parade.
Counter-protesters yell “God, honour and motherland” as well as “Bialystok free of perverts”. The pride marchers chant “Poland free of fascists” in return.
The police say around 4,000 people were involved in demonstrations against the march. There were bags of flour and other objects thrown out of Communist-era housing blocks. All of this commotion was to stop the pride marchers who were moving around a 3-ish kilometre route through the city centre.
According to a Bialystok’s Police spokesman, Tomasz Krupa, the violence led to the detention of 20 people, four of whom were in suspicion of committing crimes, including the use of threats and insults against officers.
The hostile atmosphere did not dampen the mood of a multi-generational group of marchers. They began to describe the event as a victory in their fight for more equality, despite the multitude of threats they receive.
“I am trying to see this in a joyful way, but this march is also sad for me because I did not think it would be as dangerous as it is,” says Anna Pietrucha to CNN. Anna is a 26-year-old who came from Warsaw to speak at the march.
Yesterday’s march was one of the 24 parades in schedule to take place this year in Poland.
This is a record number that campaigners say is a reaction to the uptick of homophobic and transphobic language by Poland’s Catholic leaders and PiS, Poland’s ruling Justice Party.
“We are in the middle of an ongoing wave of hateful propaganda, which is fueled by both the state and the Catholic Church,” says Hubert Sobecki to CNN. Hubert is the co-president of the Warsaw-based LGBT+ organization “Love Does Not Exclude”.
According to officials, there were around 32 protests that were in the register for Saturday. The majority of which were in opposition to the pride march. These include a family picnic at Bialystok’s Branicki Palace which was in organization by Artur Kosicki. He is the marshal of Podlasie and an outdoor prayer vigil next door at the Roman Catholic Bialystok Cathedral. The picnic had bouncy castles, folk musicians and the local army regiment exhibiting its artillery.
Soon, more flashbangs were heard in the close distance, set off by far-right groups outside the complex as they made attempts to block pride marchers from proceeding any further.
The march ended soon after 5 pm after the police deploy stun grenades and pepper spray to clear the far-right protesters. Some pride marchers were seen removing their makeup, hiding their rainbow flags and wiping off the glitter. They told CNN it was in an attempt to blend in with the pedestrians and leave the city centre safely.
The truth of Poland:
Many Polish in the country’s urban centres is supportive of the push for more LGBTQ+ rights. This is no surprise after Warsaw held it’s largest pride parade in June.
But while there is support, there is also resistance. The community’s increasing visibility doesn’t help where the country’s law are against them. There are no same-sex marriage laws, adoptions are illegal and hate crimes are not crimes by the law.
In Bialystok, leaflets anonymously placed around the city ahead of the march said that streets would be “contaminated with LGBT bacteria” on Saturday.
But we place our respect in the people of Bialystok. They stood their ground and kept their heads high. Even when under attack for proclaiming their rights as citizens of the country.