Current Affairs

Poland: Arrest of trans-activist and the escalation against LGBTQ+ protestors

Condemnation falls yet again on Poland following escalations between police and LGBTQ+ protestors in the state’s capital on Friday evening.

Protestors gathered on the historic Warsaw street, Krakowskie Przedmieście, to show opposition against the decision to place LGBTQ+ trans-activist Margot—or Michal Sz. as she is known to police—under two months arrest. The cause of this arrest is the alleged destruction of property of a van with anti-abortion and anti-LGBT messages which equated those of the LGBT community to paedophiles; an example of frequently used rhetoric by the Polish right.

Margot is a part of the Stop Bzdurom collective. Translated, it equates to “Stop the Nonsense/Crap” referring to the rhetoric used by the Law and Justice (PiS) ruling party and Polish right against the LGBT community. The group has also been responsible for hanging rainbow flags on statues as well as donning them in pink anarcho-queer face masks around the capital. This included the monument of Nicolas Copernicus, the Mermaid of Warsaw, and that of Jesus carrying the cross outside the Holy Cross Church. Warsaw Police informed on Wednesday that three activists had been arrested for “insulting religious feelings and insulting Warsaw monuments” in relation to the incidents.

Footage of the Friday evening protest show protestors surrounding the police car transporting Margot, with two activists climbing onto the roof of the vehicle. Later images show police officers linking arms around the car whilst protestors sat on the surrounding street, playing drums and chanting slogans. Images televised by independent news network TVN24 showed these same activists being dragged up by police officers.

As the protestors began to disperse – some making their way to the police station where it was suspected that Margot was taken – the police began arresting those walking in small groups on the pavement. The Warsaw Police wrote on Twitter that “intervention is initiated against the most aggressive people. Zero tolerance for breaking the law”. Forty-eight protestors were arrested that evening.

Speaking to TVN24, three female ministers of the Polish Left party (Polska Lewica) including Magdalena Filiks, Chairman of the Committee for the Defense of Democracy, spoke of how they conducted seven interventions to stop the alleged arbitrary arrests of protestors. The ministers also claimed that they heard that the orders given through police radios were to stop three people at random, with images showing many activists being grabbed from behind and detained by officers. This was before the announcement around 21:30 from police via megaphone for the protestors to disperse.

Other recent incidents of note concerning the relationship between police and LGBTQ+ activists include students of the University of Silesia in Katowice enduring police interrogation following their complaints against Dr Ewa Budzyńska in January.

Her lectures, the students claim, included condemnations of abortion as “murder”, contraception as being “antisocial”, and a “normal family” always consisting of a heterosexual couple. Lawyers of the conservative Christian legal think-tank Ordo luris—which has a record of opposing equal marriage and abortion – were at the police station interviewing the students.

The Minister of Justice, Zbigniew Ziobro, criticised opposition ministers coming out in support of Margot, labelling the activist as a “hooligan” and “bandit” while saying that ministers are calling for “the acceptance and tolerance for the perpetrator of this criminal act and incident”.

Amongst comments from many critics that Poland did not see such scenes from police even under the communist regime which ended in 1989, Mr Ziobro said that he “didn’t think we would come to this point where the opposition would not be ashamed of the things they are saying”.

The European Union’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, called for the immediate release of Margot, highlighting that the order to detain her “sends [a] very chilling signal for #FreedomOfSpeech & #LGBT rights” in Poland. 

These events follow the incidents of inflammatory anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric used by President Andrzej Duda in the presidential election in July, labelling the “LGBT ideology” as a greater threat to Polish identity and values than communism.

Paulina Maziarska

Paulina (she/her) is a News Reporter at the Oxford Blue, was previously a News Editor on the paper, and has written longer form pieces on Global Affairs for other publications. She is entering her second year as a History and Politics undergraduate at Trinity College.