08 sierpnia 2020

"The policeman pinned her head to the pavement". Demonstrations in defence of an LGBTQ activist in Poland meet with the police crackdown

LGBT rights activists scuffled with police in Warsaw after turning out on the streets to protest the arrest of an activist. “I have never seen such aggression. People have been hurled like sacks of potatoes". “They attacked the protesters in front of the police station. One after another, people are being pushed to the ground and arrested.”

Yesterdays’s confrontation of the city police with the activists and defenders of the LGBTQ community lasted several hours. It resulted in around 50 people being battered, arrested, and taken to various police stations around the city. Police aggression has not been justified by the circumstances.

Police roundup

“The protest finished a while ago and we were quite far from [where the protests took place]. The two of them were together, they were going back home. One of them is my friend, a Pole who lives in the U.S.,” says Jarmila, who saw the whole incident.

Unexpectedly the police attacked the young women.

“The policeman pinned her head to the pavement with his boot. She was bleeding, but the police did not react to our pleas to call the ambulance. She was taken to [the police station at] Wilcza street.”

Klemens Stępniewska (a painter and video artist) shared a recording with us that shows another victim of police violence, bleeding. “She was in shock. The police cordoned her off, only letting in a member of the Parliament to be present at the scene. They didn’t want to say what the charges are,” says Stępniewska. Half an hour later, she witnessed another arrest.

“We were standing near the police station, but we weren’t even shouting. They walked up to us and asked my friend to show his ID. He said, ok, here it is, and reached into his pocket. They reacted as if he was going to pull out a gun. They started jerking him around. Six of them grabbed his legs even though he was screaming don’t touch me. They carried him writhing to the police car. There were many others arrested, inside the car. I saw how brutally they were searched.”

Everything has started when the court decided to arrest Margo, the activist from the queer collective Stop Bzdurom [Enough with this Nonsense]. She was sentenced to two months of police detention for damaging a truck that belongs to the pro-lifers’ The Right to Live Foundation that drives around the city broadcasting homophobic nonsense through the loudspeakers. Another charge was related to draping rainbow flags on Warsaw monuments.

The Defense of KPH*

[*Kampania Przeciw Homofobii: Campaign Against Homophobia, a Polish LGBTQIA organization]

“Kiedy państwo nas nie chroni, swojej siostry będę bronić” [“When the state does not protect me, I will defend my sister”] was one of the slogans chanted by several dozen people gathered on Friday afternoon in front of KPH, where the police were expected to arrest Margo.

The decision to arrest Margo for two months was made unexpectedly, after the appeal of the Prosecutor’s Office—originally, she was released by the Court. In the meantime, she spent 2 days at the police station for the rainbow flags [arrested by plainclothes policemen, dragged out of her house barefoot, and forced into an unmarked car]. The members of the Parliament Left, who joined the queer community in protesting the arrest, also came to the gathering at KPH.

In front of KPH the activists created a “wall of bikes” and of their own bodies.

People did not want to let go of Margo. And something strange happened. The Police Refuse the Arrest

At some point Margo came out of the building, walked up to the police and put out her hands to be cuffed. But the policemen were silent. They walked away and did not make the arrest.

The March to the Statue of Christ

In this strange situation of unexpected victory, the group decided to walk up to the Christ statue at Krakowskie Przedmieście street. The draping of the queer flag on this very statue by the Stop this Nonsense collective created an outrage among Polish authorities. Deputy Minister Sebastian Kaleta filed a motion at the Prosecutor’s Office claiming the “offense of religious feelings.”

The impromptu march walked without obstruction until it reached the statue. The police was already waiting there. They took Margo into an unmarked car.

The protesters who tried to block the car were immediately surrounded by the police. The statue of Christ, with his back turned toward all of this, was tightly surrounded and guarded by the police. The statue of Copernicus nearby, on the other hand, was not, so someone quickly climbed up and draped the flag. A battle for this flag would later ensue and lead to arrests.

At exactly 8pm the police charged the crowd sitting on the pavement and blocking the car with Margo. They were pulling young people out of the sit-in, one by one. But this was only the beginning.

Please leave the scene, in which we are holding you captive

When the car started moving, chaos ensued and arrests begun in earnest. The police formed a winding wall. “You are to leave the scene immediately,” announced the loudspeakers, warning of the use of “necessary force,” but in fact, it was impossible to get out. Those who tried—though for many it was not clear whether they are “in” or “out” of the scene—were sent to try somewhere else along the impermeable line of the police.

One of the members of the Parliament Left, Magdalena Filiks, approached the police saying, “We heard you say ‘just grab anyone as they come. How can you?! You arrested an accidental person from the crowd!’”

Fot. Robert Kuszyński / OKO.press

A man explained to OKO.press how he was arrested: “I was just walking by when suddenly three policemen jumped on me. When I asked why I’m being arrested, one of them started screaming ‘You fucker, don’t you dare!’ and begun strangling me.” [a recording of the incident is available here:…] Those who asked about the legal grounds for the arrests were sent to “the spokesman.”

A crack-down on Wilcza

Some of the arrested were taken to the police station on Wilcza street. The police reacted with brutal force. “I have never seen such aggression of the police,” says the photographer from OKO.press. “I heard this young woman’s head crash on the concrete. . . . One very young girl had a panic attack and looked as if she was going to faint, but the police proceeded anyway. Only the intervention of one of the members of the Parliament Left got her out.”

Several dozen people came to stand in front of the police station at Wilcza to get information about the arrested and show support. “We are with you,” they chanted and found ways to “make noise” for the arrested to know they are there. Around 10 pm, the police told the crowd to disperse and at the same moment started pulling out people at random, packing them into police transporters and taking away. A recording is available here:

Yesterday, all the police stations were in chaos. Not even the attorneys were able to get any information. It was unclear who was in charge of each the stations where the protesters had likely been taken. “It is bad” - said Magdalena Biejat, one of the members of the Parliament Left who intervened at the police station “We’re sitting on the steps and trying to verify names of the arrested…” She told us the phones of the police officials are off the hook, no one is given any information and it is not clear why people are being transported from one police station to another. Several members of the Parliament (Anna Maria Żukowska, Krzysztof Śmiszek and Michał Szczerba) were able to go inside the police stations. Here Śmiszek speaks of the situation of the arrested:

The translation is an abbreviated version of the articles by Marta K. Nowak, Hanna Szukalska and Bartosz Kocejko, OKO.press. Translation: Krystyna Mazur

A demonstration of Solidarity with the arrested, “You will never walk alone,” is planned for 6:30 pm on Saturday in Warsaw.

Udostępnij:

Bartosz Kocejko

Redaktor OKO.press. Kieruje działem społeczno-ekonomicznym. Czasem pisze: o pracy, podatkach i polityce społecznej.

Marta K. Nowak

Absolwentka MISH na UAM, ukończyła latynoamerykanistykę w ramach programu Master Internacional en Estudios Latinoamericanos. 3 lata mieszkała w Ameryce Łacińskiej. Polka z urodzenia, Brazylijka z powołania. W OKO.press pisze o zdrowiu, migrantach i pograniczach więziennictwa (ośrodek w Gostyninie).

Hanna Szukalska

Architektka, dziennikarka i psycholożka. Pisze m.in. o psychologii, psychiatrii i planowaniu przestrzennym. Relacjonuje protesty. Robi ilustracje i infografiki.

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