Saturday, July 20 saw around 800 members of the LGBT+ and allied community march through Bialystok for the city’s first-ever Pride march. Attendees faced stones, glass bottles and firecrackers pelted by ultra-nationalists clad in soccer gear.
The extremists resorted to brutality to express their homophobic disgust; videos on social media show physical assaults of LGBT+ youth and the burning of stolen pride flags, while the chants ‘Bialystok free of perverts’ and ‘God, honour and motherland’ attempt to overpower the LGBT+ campaigners proclaiming that ‘love is not a sin’.
Police eventually arrived in riot gear to prevent further violence, firing tear gas and arresting 25 people.
The event’s announcement received myriad backlash from religious and nationalist groups, with around 40 counter-demonstrations taking place on the day. These included an anti-LGBT+ picnic organised by a local MP, whilst hundreds were seen praying in front of the cathedral during the march.
Homophobia and transphobia are not limited to Bialystok; anti-LGBT+ sentiments are prevalent throughout the country, with conservative newspaper Gazeta Polska distributing ‘LGBT-Free Zone’ stickers this Wednesday (July 24). Reflecting on the attacks, Polish LGBT+ group Miłość nie wyklucza released a statement calling for an end this hatred towards the LGBT+ community “fuelled by cardinals and bishops”. “The ministers, MPs and councillors are feeding it”, they expanded.
LGBT+ rights have become a dominant issue through the upcoming elections – chairperson of the governing Law and Justice Party Jaroslaw Kaczynski denounced the LGBT+ community to “threaten our identity, our nation, its continuation and therefore the Polish state”. Furthermore, 30 local governments across the country have declared themselves “free of LGBT+ ideology”.
Others, although not necessarily explicit allies to the LGBT+ community, have censured the hate crimes – interior minister Elżbieta Witek defended the role of the police tweeting, “Those who commit attacks on other people because of their different views are thugs, and their behaviour deserves to be condemned.”
Miłość nie wyklucza vowed to fight “for the real equality that LGBT+ people have enjoyed in Western Europe and other countries across the world for many years”. They emphasise that “after yesterday’s events, we send as much love as possible. All of Poland can see how strong the hatred is against us, against our entire community”.
In Białystok today, the town's first ever Pride Parade was met with thrown stones and firecrackers. But the Parade made it through. 🏳️🌈
You can't stop the march of progress. We're coming for our rights.✊
Huge props to Tęczowy Białystok, the organisers. Photos by K. Kadziewicz. pic.twitter.com/4EtwWJY4qX
— Eva Infeld (@evainfeld) July 20, 2019
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