Police clashed with protesters at the annual far right, anti-LGBT+ Independence March in Warsaw after organisers went ahead despite a pandemic-mandated ban.
According to Al Jazeera, on Wednesday (11 November) thousands joined the banned march, carrying red flares, Polish flags and racist or Nazi symbols, and chanting: “God, honour and homeland!”
Violence broke out as police fired rubber bullets and the thousands of protesters, many maskless, hurled firecrackers and rocks. Some protesters even threw firecrackers into apartment windows that displayed LGBT+ Pride flags.
Warsaw police wrote on Twitter that “several officers were injured” after they were attacked by “groups of hooligans”, and added: “Officers had to act decisively in order to clear a passage for ambulances and vehicles carrying respirators that were being blocked by hooligans.”
Launched by far-right and ultranationalist organisations in 2008, the Independence March has since taken place every November.
Officially it celebrates Poland’s independence from Russia, Prussia and the Austrian Empire more than a century ago, but the march has consistently drawn racists, homophobes and neo-Nazis, and has seen many violent clashes between protesters and police.
During the 2013 Independence March, far right protesters set fire to a 30-foot-tall rainbow sculpture in Warsaw because of the symbols association with the queer community, as dismayed LGBT+ activists looked on.
This year’s march was advertised under the slogan “our civilisation, our rules” and posters for the event featured a spear impaling a half rainbow, half red star to symbolise the far right’s hatred of the LGBT+ community and Communism.
Shortly after the posters were revealed, however, the Independence March was was banned by Warsaw mayor Rafal Trzaskowski because of the coronavirus pandemic, but this did not deter the country’s far right nationalists.
Poland to consider bill banning LGBT+ Pride marches.
Just two days before the Independence March, a proposed law, entitled “Stop LGBT”, was submitted to Polish parliament by the lobby group Life and Family Foundation.
If passed, it would ban Pride parades as well as any other public gatherings that “promote” queer identities.
The citizen’s legislative initiative – a type of bill that can be submitted by the public so long as it receives 100,000 signatures – also seeks to criminalise any promotion of “sex as an entity independent of biological conditions” and any legal solutions “aimed at privileging same-sex relationships”.