Polish direct action group “Obywatele RP” (Citizens of Poland, ORP) released a report on repressions of activists taking action against the Polish government.
According to the report, in the last 18 months, Polish authorities conducted 625 investigations and 449 interrogations, while Polish courts issued 333 judgements against the total of 526 peaceful protestors. Those numbers are likely higher, as they do not include details of the cases against the protectors of Bialowieża Forest and women’s “Black Protest” actions against the proposed restrictions of the country’s abortion laws.
ORP is an informal civil disobedience movement engaged in anti-fascist and pro-democracy actions and opposed to the government led by Law and Justice (PiS) party. The group is known for non-violent direct action. They block extreme right-wing rallies and demand delegalisation of organisations promoting racism and xenophobia, and they take non-violent direct action against the ongoing attempts of the Polish government to move from democracy to the authoritarian state model. They also established a nationwide network of legal support providing support to those persecuted for anti-government and anti-fascist activities.
The report, put together by the ORP legal team, suggests that the Polish government is routinely using the state apparatus to repress peaceful civil disobedience.
One of the cases described in the report is the prosecution of women who attempted to block an extreme right march in Warsaw in November last year. On the day, 14 women tried to block a massive- about 60 thousand strong- fascist rally. The women sat peacefully on the road, to eventually get ambushed by the marching fash who assaulted, kicked and abused them. The incident was video-recorded, however, later the charges against the fascists were dropped by the prosecutor who decided that the attackers were in fact not assaulting the women, but merely “expressing their disappointment”. Nine out of the fourteen women who took part in the blockade were later fined for “disrupting a rally”.
The report claims that the state persecutions of activists is a nation-wide phenomenon and occur in both small and big cities. It also points out to the numerous breaches of law by the Polish police, such as unfunded arrests and use of excessive violence.
One of the victims of police brutality in the recent months was Klementyna Suchanow, an activist involved with Polish Women’s Strike. Suchanow, during a protest, had her back damaged by the cops and had to undergo neurosurgical treatment followed by months of rehabilitation. Another example is David Winiarski, a young activist who was savagely beaten by the police following his arrest during a protest in July 2018. The police also prevented Winiarski from seeing his lawyer.
The report estimates that the number of people who had a first hand contact with the authorities due to their political activities is at about 1000. However, not everyone came forward and got in touch with legal team.
According to the report, the state repression of dissent in Poland is systemic, with, as for today, an average of 100 new legal cases monthly against activists being brought forward by the state. The repressions aim to discourage Polish citizens from participating in protests: the plan which seems to be rather unsuccessful considering the number of civil disobedience and protest actions occurring in the country.