More than two dozen people have been detained by police in connection with the attacks on Bialystok’s LGBTQ+ equality march over the weekend — the first such march in the eastern Polish city.
About 1,000 queer people and allies gathered in Bialystok to march in favor of LGBTQ+ rights on Saturday, CNN reports. But they were not alone: An estimated 4,000 counter-protesters also showed up, flanking the marchers on either side of the nearly two-mile parade route that ran straight through the eastern Polish city’s center.
The far-right counter-protesters reportedly hurled flashbulbs, rocks, and glass bottles at the marchers, while shouting “Bialystok free of perverts”; “God, honor, and motherland”; and other homophobic and transphobic nationalist sentiments. The marchers chanted back: “Poland free of fascists.”
Local police intervened, shutting down the march by early evening with stun grenades and pepper spray. Twenty-five people were detained in connection with the violence, Reuters says.
"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," Anna Pietrucha of Warsaw told CNN.
The anti-LGBTQ+ counter-protest, one of many registered that day, reflects an increasingly hostile climate for Poland’s LGBTQ+ community. The ruling Law and Justice party, known by its acronym PiS, has a history of anti-LGBTQ+ antagonism that has only increased as October’s general election nears. PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski has described his party as “the only party that gives a 100% guarantee that our values will be protected,” calling LGBTQ+ equality an "attack on the family,” echoing the family values-style fear mongering that Brazilian Pres. Jair Bolsonaro rode to victory last year.
"We are in the middle of an ongoing wave of hateful propaganda, which is fueled by both the state and the Catholic Church," Hubert Sobecki, co-president of Love Does Not Exclude, told CNN.