Concern over mass arrest of LGBT+ activists and police brutality in Poland

Over 50 people were arrested for demonstrating against the detention of an LGBT+ activist who hung a rainbow flag over a statue.

Scene of a mass arrest in Poland as police drag protestors away
Image: Aleksandra Perzynska

The LGBT+ advocacy group, ILGA Europe, are calling for international human rights institutions to make official complaints following the mass arrest of over 50 pro-LGBT+ activists in Poland.

In protest against the openly homophobic leanings of the government, activists had begun decorating monuments and statues with rainbow flags and face masks. One of the activists, Margot Szutowicz, was charged and given a two-month pre-trial detention order for her part in the action. Szutowicz was then also accused of assaulting a driver for a pro-life organisation. She could face up to five years in prison if convicted.

Police came to pick up Szutowicz from the headquarters of Campaign Against Homophobia in Warsaw, whereupon the activist left the building and repeatedly held her hands out to be cuffed. The police initially avoided detaining her due to witnesses and media being present. As this continued, ILGA reported that a “spontaneous solidarity demonstration” sprung up as activists tried to block a police car in an act of civil disobedience against the severity of Szutowicz’s sentence.

The police were then accused of brutality as they roughly manhandled protestors, leading to the mass arrest, which Adam Bodnar, the Poland ombudsman, said “required urgent explanation”.

Anna Maria Zukowska, from the left-wing alliance Lewica, said in an interview, “It is surprising to see that the police didn’t react when the person who was supposed to be arrested, Margot, did not oppose the arrest at all, but simply went to the police and offered to be detained. The police did not react then. Instead, they arrested Margot on Krakowskie Przedmiescie, so that it was more spectacular.”

Zukowska continued, “They threw people to the ground, they roughed them up, and some people suffered injuries. They deprived people of their dignity – what else does it mean to put their boots on the head of a person.”

Scene of a mass arrest in Poland as police drag protestors away

Björn van Roozendaal of ILGA-Europe, stated, “The LGBT+ community is being denied the right to exist by the leading political party. LGBT+ people in Poland live in a situation of constant, repressive pressure with no access to justice or State protection. In circumstances like these, where marginalised members of society are being attacked from all sides, protest and activism are inevitable, and may even be considered provoked by the government’s failure to protect their fundamental rights and disproportionate law enforcement responses. Let us not forget this is happening in an EU country where the human rights of all citizens are deeply rooted in law.”

ILGA continued, “We are calling international human rights institutions, including the European Union, the Council of Europe, and the United Nations, to raise their voices against police violence and arbitrary detention, and to demand that the rule of law be followed and fundamental rights protected for LGBTI people in Poland.”

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