In May, Poland was named the most homophobic EU country in the latest ranking by the International LGBT+ Association. Since then, things have only gotten worse. During the recent presidential campaign, right-wing president Andrzej Duda won a tight reelection in part by attacking the LGBTQ community, saying that they are not people, but an ideology.
In late July, gay activists draped rainbow flags on prominent monuments in Warsaw, including on a statue of Jesus which stands in front of the Basilica of the Holy Cross. Conservative and religious groups were angry, with pro-government state television describing the activists as aggressors.
Then on the 7th of August, a Warsaw court issued an arrest warrant for gay-rights campaigner Malgorzata “Margot” Szutowicz, placing her in a two-month pre-trial detention. Margot had been accused of committing “acts of civil disobedience”, such as damaging a pro-life group’s van, which was covered with homophobic slogans.
Last Friday, the city erupted when large groups of demonstrators gathered in support of Margot. Fifty activists were arrested, with almost 48 people injured in what some campaigners are calling “the Polish Stonewall”.
Feeling like not enough is being done by the government to silence the LGBTQ community, Polish nationalists have decided to step in.
On Sunday, right-wing groups joined forces to organise a "Stop the LGBT aggression" demonstration in front of the main entrance to the University of Warsaw – a site that was chosen, the organisers said, because the campus allowed students to run anti-fascist groups. The organisers of the event were the same groups that led the Independence March last November – one of the largest gatherings of nationalists in Poland’s history.
The event description on Facebook read: “Our society is at a turning point. If Polish patriots, nationalists, and Catholics don't soundly oppose the rainbow-coloured anti-culture today, we could live in a completely different country in ten years' time”.
As Sunday’s demonstration started, several people in the crowd set fire to a rainbow flag, while chants of ‘Away with deviation’ and ‘The rag is burning, let the rag burn’ blared through the speakers. The organisers also found time to urge attendees to sign a petition against the Istanbul Convention – a European treaty that aims to prevent domestic violence.
In a set of speeches, the groups took turns to preach about how Poland was currently fighting multiple plagues, including the “rainbow plague”.
The first speaker was the leader of the All-Polish Youth Ziemowit Przebitkowski who proclaimed that "we cannot stand indifferently, for our indifference will be our doom, just as indifference doomed the Western nations”. He was followed by Krzysztof Bosak, the vice-president of the National Movement and an actual MP who came fourth in the recent presidential election. Bosak called the rainbow flag a “symbol of sin” before complaining that the ruling Law and Justice party is not fascist enough.
There were some counter-protesters who were tightly cordoned off by the police. They were mocked by the far-right, with chants such as: ‘Hey, you whores, how’s Margot?’
The police did not intervene.