Warsaw hosts LGBT counter protest

Warsaw hosts LGBT counter protest

In Warsaw, over 1,000 people have protesters against violence targeting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community that took place during the first pride march in Bialystok last week.

In Berlin, rainbow flags and placards with messages of love and tolerance in solidarity with Poland at the German capital’s pride parade. Last Saturday in Bialystok the city’s pride parade was attacked by a large group of men shouting anti-LGBT insults.

Police have detained over 30 people in connection with the violence while Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has condemned the attacks.

But several members of his Law and Justice (PiS) party have made LGBT rights a campaign issue ahead of a general election expected in October. It has been said that pride marches promote unnecessary displays of sexuality.

A Warsaw court this week banned the distribution of “LGBT-free zone” stickers by a pro-PiS magazine.

“I am here because of what happened in Bialystok and because of the ‘LGBT-free zone’ stickers,” said Amelia Rae, 15. “If something is going to change, then the government needs to change.”

Activists blame “LGBT-free zones” on efforts by PiS to stoke anti-LGBT sentiment ahead of the general election.

According to the Polish media, more than 25 cities and towns, including some led by PiS, have recently declared their regions LGBT-free zones. The majority are in the conservative southeast.

The declarations are not legally enforceable, activists say they signal targeted homophobia.

“It’s a statement saying that a specific kind of people is not welcome,” said Ola Kaczorek of the Warsaw-based Love Does Not Exclude group. Warsaw’s opposition mayor Rafał Trzaskowski signed a declaration in February supporting sexual and gender diverse communities in the capital, sparking the homophobic movement elsewhere, Kaczorek said.

The populist PiS won the 2015 election on an anti-immigrant platform but with migration to Poland slowing to a trickle since 2015, the party is looking for a new group to target.

At a rally ahead of European elections in May, PiS president Jaroslaw Kacynski said Western Europe’s “LGBT ideology” was a “threat” to Polish society.

“They are not saying LGBT+ people are a threat, but they’re saying that LGBT+ ideology is a threat,” said Kaczorek. “Then people who are taking part [in marches] are not seen as humans, but as a part of some kind of ideology … that is terrifying for some people.”

Warsaw is a bastion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender tolerance in increasingly homophobic Poland. Picture credit: Wikimedia

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