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Poland: LGBT+ activists and nationalists face off

August 16, 2020

Gay rights are increasingly under threat in Poland, endorsed by the government. Far-right nationalists arranged a "stop aggression by LGBT" rally in Warsaw, prompting supporters of the LGBT+ community to confront them.

Pro-LGBT+ protesters gesture in a standoff with nationalists in Warsaw
Image: Reuters/K. Pempel

Hundreds of Polish nationalists and defenders of gay rights faced off in central Warsaw on Sunday, amid a deteriorating situation for the country's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) community.

Both groups shouted abuse at each other in front of Warsaw University's main gate. A line of police officers separated them.

The nationalists burnt a rainbow flag — the symbol of LGBT+ social movements, while the LGBT+ demonstrators and supporters painted one on the street.

Read more: Poland: Protesters slam plans to withdraw from domestic violence convention

Recently, 48 gay-rights activists and supporters were detained after protesting the arrest of an activist — accused of hanging rainbow flags over statues in Warsaw.

Gay rights was a divisive issue in the recent presidential election campaign. Incumbent president, Andrzej Duda – an ally of the ruling far-right Law and Justice Party (PiS) — compared what he called LGBT "ideology" to communist doctrine during his campaign, sparking criticism.

Countering hate

Polish LGBT+ group Campaign Against Homophobia tweeted an image of the far-right demonstration as well as an image of the rainbow flag painted by LGBT+ activists — ahead of the nationalists arriving.

"Where they plan to shout slogans of hate, a symbol of the fight for freedom, equality, love and democracy is waiting!"

'Stop aggression by LGBT'

Far-right nationalist movement All-Poland Youth arranged Sunday's demonstration under the banner "stop aggression by LGBT."

The group's former leader, Krzysztof Bosak, won nearly 7% in the first round of a presidential election in June.

"This is a toxic ideology, dangerous, revolutionary and radical," Bosak said in a speech during the gathering.

Members of nationalist groups the National Movement and the March of Independence also participated.

Rolling back freedoms

PiS has embarked on a program of rolling back liberal freedoms — particularly for women and the LGBT+ community.

During the coronavirus lockdown, women protested against the proposed tightening of already-strict abortion laws.

This year, some municipalities signed a "family charter" that calls to promote the traditional family and exclude those with sexual and gender differences.

Reuters contributed to this report

Kate Martyr Editor and video producer at DW's Asia Desk and News Digital