LGBTI rights supporters marching in Warsaw following violent clashes in Białystok | Photo: Twitter/@JJrram
Over 1,000 people took to the streets in the Polish capital of Warsaw in a show of support for LGBTI rights on Saturday (27 July).
The march comes a week after a Pride event in the north-eastern city of Białystok was marred by violence.
The first Pride event to take place in Białystok was met with counter-protests by Christian and far-right groups on 20 July.
Videos showed counter-protestors attacking and throwing rocks and bottles at the Pride march participants.
LGBTI rights are a deeply polarising issue in the majority Catholic country.
Divisions over LGBTI issues have been exacerbated in the lead up to Poland’s general election.
March in Warsaw to support the LGBT community, after the first pride march in the city of Baiłystok was met with violence. PiS and opposition called out for not doing enough to condemn the attacks. pic.twitter.com/Eq7uP5xTxT
— Jack Ramsay (@JJrram) July 27, 2019
‘The tension is growing and is tied to the politics of the ruling party’
Those who took to the streets on Saturday’s march carried rainbow-colored flags and banners with pro-LGBTI messages.
‘I am here because of what happened in Białystok and because of the “LGBT-free zone” stickers,’ said 15-year-old student, Amelia Rae.
‘If something is going to change than the government needs to change.’
Analysts say that Poland’s ruling party, PiS, has attempted to energize their voter base by pushing back against ‘western liberalism’.
This includes disapproving of LGBTI events such as Pride marches, which many politicians argue are a public display of sexuality, the Guardian reports.
‘The tension is growing and is tied to the politics of the ruling party, which are hateful and intolerant,’ said Marta Zawadzka, a 17-year-old student who took part in Saturday’s march.
She said that establishment political figures had ‘[blamed] LGBT people and painting them as pedophiles and bad people’.
The decision to hold a Pride parade in Bialystok was highly contested by local religious groups.
A number of Polish politicians, including Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, have condemned the attacks in Białystok.
Police have detained more than 30 people in connection with the violence.
Anti-LGBTI actions across Poland
Recent months have seen a series of high-profile anti-LGBTI actions throughout Poland.
Earlier this month, conservative newspaper Gazeta Polska began handing out ‘LGBT-free zone’ stickers. The distribution of the stickers was temporarily blocked following a court order.
July also saw several communities in Poland declared themselves ‘free of LGBTI ideology’.
Prior to this, Polish Catholic Bishops lashed out at Swedish retail giant Ikea after the company terminated an employee for homophobic comments.
The clashes at Bialystok is not the first time the country has seen Pride events marred by violence.
Last October, far-right counter-protesters attacked the first ever Pride march to take place in the city of Lublin.
Ongoing fight to support LGBTI rights
Poland has become more LGBTI-friendly in recent years. However, the country’s LGBTI community continues to face numerous hurdles in their fight for equality.
Many aspects of Polish society and politics remain staunchly conservative and the Catholic Church remains highly influential.
Due to cultural, religious and political pushback, marriage equality, legal protections in the area of gender identity, and same-sex couples being allowed to adopt remain distant prospects.
In 2018, ILGA-Europe ranked Poland at 38 out of the 49 countries polled in an annual review of human rights for LGBTI people in countries in Europe and West Asia.