Demonstrators took to the streets in cities across Poland over the weekend to protest the conservative government’s anti-LGBTQ+ platform and its detainment of LGBTQ+ activist, Malgorzata Szutowicz.
The AP reports that protests turned violent as police used aggressive tactics on demonstrators. According to representatives of the Warsaw-based Campaign Against Homophobia, “The police were aggressively pushing the protesters out of the way, knocking people to the ground and holding them down with their boots.”
The protests also follow Thursday’s inauguration of President Andrzej Duda, who was elected a second term in office on an anti-LGBTQ+ platform. The ruling conservative party has identified homosexuality as an “ideology”.
Szutowicz, who belongs to the group “Stop the Nonsense” – whose members drape Warsaw statues with rainbow flags – was arrested Friday for letting the air out of the tires of a van that had been spreading anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda. A court ruled she was to be held in two-months preventative detention – measures which Szutowicz called “repressive”.
The judge in her case ruled that the punishment was justified, citing that, “Perhaps the knife that was used to destroy the van back then will be used for a bigger crime next time.”
Protesters clashed with police on Friday over both Szutowicz’s arrest and the court’s ruling, as well as the fact that Szutowicz, who is a trans woman, was put in a men’s prison facility. Friday’s protests resulted in further arrests.
The protests come at a contentious time in Poland, as more left-leaning social groups clash with the conservative government, which has been accused of using propaganda to sow political dissent. Anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda has been effective in opening this political divide. LGBTQ+ Nation reports that one-third of the country’s cities and territories have been declared “LGBT-free zones”.
LGBTQ+ Nation also notes that according to ILGA, an LGBTQ+ advocacy group, Poland “is the worst country in Europe for LGBTQ rights.”