Concerned residents living on the border of Germany and Poland marched together in a demonstration of solidarity with Poland’s LGBTQ+ community. With drag queens leading the way, an estimated 2,000 demonstrators marched symbolically across the bridge over the River Order which separates Frankfurt an der Order in Germany from the Polish town of Slubice to the east, according to Reuters. Poland is currently suffering under the harsh homophobic regime of President Duda which views LGBTQ+ rights as an insidious foreign ideology, and many Polish towns have declared themselves LGBT-free zones.
Police lined the streets leading to the bridge in expectation of possible violence. The march was largely peaceful, though, with protesters waving rainbow flags, singing, and holder banners while passing a group of roughly 20 counter-protestors.
“The only way we can change people [sic] opinions is through visibility,” Mewa Topolska, a school teacher from Slubice and one of the march’s organizers, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “We don't have full queer rights in Poland — and won't for a long time so the main [goal of the march] is solidarity with the Polish side.”
Virulently homophobic incumbent Polish president Andrzej Duda was reelected to a second term in office in July after a campaign filled with inflammatory and hateful rhetoric. Duda is a registered Independent, but allies with the right-wing Law and Justice Party (PiS). PiS actively fights against protections for LGBTQ+ persons, and supported a “Stop Pedophilia” bill that calls for punishing anyone who “promotes or approves sexual intercourse or other sexual activity by a minor” with up to three years in prison. Duda’s “Family Card” of proposals promises to outlaw marriage equality and prevent child adoption by LGBTQ+ families.
Nearly a third of towns in Poland have declared themselves LGBT-free zones. Two courts issued separate decisions recently that struck down the zones as outside the authority of local town councils and unlawful. The decisions are isolated and can be appealed, though. The country’s hardline minister of state assets recently said that all of Poland should be LGBT-free.
The two border towns were originally joined as one but were divided following World War II. Slubice has not declared itself an LGBT-free zone, but residents on both sides of the border made clear they will stand together against Poland’s hard march to the right.
“We are here to have a good time, but also to show young people living in small towns that they can feel free and that they are not alone,” Lelita Petit, a construction worker and former drag queen, said.