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Polish nationalists burn rainbow flags as LGBT+ campaigners lead counter demo

Polish nationalists burn rainbow flags as LGBT+ campaigners lead counter demo

  • A line of police separated anti-LGBT+ nationalists and LGBT+ human rights defenders in Warsaw.
The police lines separating the two sides in Warsaw.

Hundreds of Polish nationalists chanted ‘Stop degeneration’ as they faced off against LGBT+ campaigners in Warsaw yesterday.

The nationalists even tried to burn rainbow flags. That task proved more challenging and less spectacular because most flags are made from fireproof material.

However the LGBT+ campaigners arguably won the battle of the flags. They sparked a massive police response when they chalked a massive rainbow on the street in front of Warsaw University ahead of the two protests.

The Campaign Against Homophobia wrote: ‘Where they plan to shout slogans of hate, a symbol of the fight for freedom, equality, love and democracy is waiting!’

LGBT+ campaigners chalked the road with a rainbow flag before the protests started.
LGBT+ campaigners chalked the road with a rainbow flag before the protests started. Twitter WC

Soon protest and police lines formed. And both groups shouted abuse at each other.

Notably the nationalists likened their opposition to LGBT+ rights to Poland’s struggle against Communist dictatorship. They shouted (translated): ‘Once a sickle, once a hammer into a rainbow rabble’ and ‘Not red, not rainbow, only national Poland’.

It’s the same rhetoric that President Andrzej Duda used during his recent re-election campaign. At the time, he said ‘LGBT ideology’ is ‘worse than Communist doctrine’. The hateful debate became a major election issue.

‘Warsaw free from fascism’

Right wing groups, the National Movement, March of Independence and All Poland Youth organized the nationalists’ gathering.

All Poland Youth’s former leader, Krzysztof Bosak, who won 6.78% in June’s first round of the Polish presidential election, said (translated):

‘This is a toxic ideology, dangerous, revolutionary and radical.’

Moreover, he argued that the LGBT+ ‘minority’ should not be free to ‘impose political correctness’ on Poland.

Meanwhile the nationalists collected signatures supporting anti-LGBT+ bills – including a proposal to stop Pride and other LGBT+ marches.

Warsaw saw LGBT+ activists face off against nationalists.
Warsaw saw LGBT+ activists face off against nationalists. Twitter WC

On the other side of the police cordon, LGBT+ people and their mostly leftist allies said they were combatting ‘facism’.

They chanted (translated) ‘Warsaw free from fascism,’ ‘Stop nonsense’ and ‘Only losers are afraid of the rainbow’.

Weeks of pro and anti-LGBT+ protests

Young LGBT+ advocates in Poland talking to an older man.
Young LGBT+ advocates in Poland talking to an older man. Twitter WC

The protests are the latest in a series that Poland has witnessed in recent weeks.

Nationalists marked the anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising during World War II by cutting up rainbow flags on 1 August.

Meanwhile Polish LGBT+ campaigners protested mass arrests of their fellow activists on 7 and 8 August. Commentators heralded it as a possible ‘Stonewall moment’ for Poland.

However, while some are fighting on, many Polish LGBT+ people are now desperate to leave or have already fled the country.

The last two years have seen Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) attack LGBT+ people in election campaigns to shore up its populist support.

Meanwhile around a third of the country has declared itself an ‘LGBT Free Zone’.

Now it looks likely that further anti-LGBT+ measures could come before Poland’s parliament in the coming months.