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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.
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.
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.
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