Police in the Poland violently attacked demonstrators over the weekend in what some are calling Poland’s Stonewall. Nearly 50 people were arrested following the arrest of trans activist Malgorzata Szutowicz, better known as Margot, on Friday. The protests come amidst a rise in homophobic hate and rhetoric, and the recent re-election of President Duda who called LGBTQ+ rights a foreign ideology that seeks to destroy basic Polish values.
“The police were aggressively pushing the protesters out of the way, knocking people to the ground and holding them down with their boots,” the LGBTQ+ rights group Kampania Przeciw Homofobii (KPH) said in a statement.
A warrant was issued for the arrest of trans activist Szutowicz on charges related to the vandalism of a van that had been blaring homophobic messages including that “homosexual are preparing society to accept pedophilia” according to the Berkshire Eagle. She is accused of slashing the tires of the van with a knife, and assaulting the driver.
“This time, Margot did not want to be handcuffed in a dark alley or dragged out of her apartment,” KPH said in a statement. Instead, she waited at KPH headquarters to be taken into custody. Police declined to arrest her at that time, even though she “stretched out her hands to be handcuffed.” Instead, they allowed her to march with a group of demonstrators to a statue on Krawkowski Przedmiecie street. It was at this point, KPH claims, that police moved in to arrest Szutowicz and other protesters.
“The police were aggressively pushing the protesters out of the way, knocking people to the ground and holding them down with their boots,” KPH claimed.
The arrest sparked more protests throughout the weekend. On Saturday, thousands reportedly gathered in Warsaw chanting "Give us Margot back," while carrying Pride flags. There were also protests in Krakow, Lublin, Wroclaw and more according to Associated Press.
A wave of fear has swept over the LGBTQ+ community in Poland as President Andrzej Duda was sworn into office for a second term last month. His re-election campaign featured a “Family Card” of proposals that promised to outlaw marriage equality and prevent child adoption by LGBTQ+ families.
The actions of police over the weekend seem to show that Duda was serious about his crackdown. Many terrified queers are fleeing the country. Those who choose to stay face the most serious test in decades as Poland’s LGBTQ+ community stands against Duda’s homophobic policies and a rising tide of homophobic hate and rhetoric.