Poland: as government’s anti-LGBTQ+ campaign intensifies, homophobes bring bomb to Pride March

CW: bigotry

According to media reports and the police, the Gay Pride march in Polish city Lublin could have potentially been a victim of a homemade bomb attack.

Lublin city, located some 170 km southeast of Poland’s capital Warsaw, saw The Gay Pride march for the second consecutive year last Saturday. Around 1500 people took part in a colourful parade organised by the local LGBTQ+ activists.

The peaceful demo was met with about a hundred strong counter-protest attempting to block it. The bigots chanted slogans such as “Lublin free from deviations”, hurled rocks and bottles, and used physical violence against the Pride participants and journalists covering the event. The counter-protest seemed somewhat tolerant of neo-nazis, with one participant spotted with the symbol of NSDAP tattooed on his head, while others sported t-shirts with Celtic cross. The far-right grouping All-Polish Youth, who co-organised the last year’s Polish Independence march in Warsaw, was present too.

Before the Lublin Pride, the city’s mayor attempted to ban the event, citing the risk of triggering a riot as a reason. This attempt was cut short by a court which delivered a crushing verdict reminding the mayor that he is not allowed to ban a peaceful march preventively and that it is his duty to ensure the safety of its participants.

Despite the virulent hate displayed by the counter-protesters and the Lublin authorities’ attempts, the Lublin Pride managed to successfully walk across the city, with the cops, some armed, resorting to use of water cannons and gas to secure its route. More than 30 bigots were arrested during the day.

Two of the arrestees were found in possession of an explosive device: a homemade bomb consisting of gas canisters and fireworks. According to the experts interviewed by the independent news website Oko.Press, the bomb, if used, presented a serious threat to human health and life. The couple, who in private life is married, has been remanded in custody and further details are, as for today, unknown.

The Polish LGBTQ+ community is currently a subject of a virulent hate campaign, primarily orchestrated by the country’s ruling far-right party Law and Justice. The party, which is looking at a landslide victory in the upcoming national elections, has been scapegoating lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people as part of their electoral campaign.

Senior party members made claims that opposing “LGBT ideology” is essential to protect “family values”. At a party rally in mid-September, its leader Jarosław Kaczyński said that “There will be no gay marriage and especially the adoption of children. Instead, in Poland, there will be freedom, freedom not limited by political correctness”. At another occasion, he stated that “[LGBTQ+ people] should keep their hands off our children”. He also said, referring to LGBTQ+ people, that “There are those who want to break into our schools, to our lives, who want to take away our rights, culture, who attack the Church, our sanctities. This must be repulsed.”

The state-controlled television station TVP has been waging its own hateful campaign. In the past months, it declared LGBTQ+ rights as “Special privileges for disturbed persons”, and aired numerous homophobic statements, such as that: “Homosexuality is like vampirism. A child who is subjected to such an experience has their sexuality disturbed”; and that “Children in kindergarten will be subject to depravity”; “The [LGBTQ+ rights are] most aggressive program of deprivation, it is harassment of our children, abuse, promotion of paedophilia”. The station also claimed that giving rights to LGBTQ+ people will mean that “there will be a person in each school, a commissioner who will be the advocate of this LGBT ideology, meaning your children will be brainwashed”. 

The Catholic Church is doing their bit too. For example, during the mass commemorating the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, Polish archbishop Marek Jędraszewski said that “The red plague is no longer on our land. Which does not mean that there is no new one that wants to rule our souls, hearts and minds. This time it is not red, but a rainbow plaque.” 

The propaganda campaign against LGBTQ+ people soon bore its intended fruit. Over the past few months, Gay Pride marches in Poland were violently attacked, with the Lublin’s bomb couple being only one example. Stickers showing a crossed-out rainbow and a caption “LGBT Free Zone” were distributed by one of right-wing newspaper and were seen stuck at shops and other establishments. There was also an incident of a “spy” at a meeting of an NGO Campaign Against Homophobia (KPH), when a young woman turned up, asking weird questions, and wearing glasses with a hidden camera. KPH has said that they think the incident was an attempt of Polish state-controlled media to gather potentially sensitive or derogatory information and use it for their coverage of the LGBTQ+ community.

It was never easy to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community in Poland. Equal rights are not enforced in Polish law, homophobia was always a common sentiment, and the Catholic Church has been consistently maintaining its homophobic position. What’s more, the issue of equal marriage rights was avoided even when the liberal Civic Platform party lead by Donald Tusk was in power. To make matters worse, the country’s legal system does not recognise attacks motivated by homophobia as hate crime, leaving their survivors without much needed legal protection. However, the current situation, inflamed mainly by the government, took bigotry to the next level.

Following the attempted bomb attack at Lublin Gay Pride, its organisers issued a statement:

Politicians!

Every lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender person – any non-heteronormative person who got hit in the face, was kicked in the street, lost their job, was intimidated by neighbours, tormented at school, driven to suicide … Each of them is at risk by simply living in Poland.

You only bear political risk.

This is not the time for cowardice and political calculations.

(…)

We do not want empty gestures and “expressions of solidarity”. 

We don’t want wreaths on our graves. 

You must loudly and clearly condemn the campaign against LGBTQ+ people waged by the authorities, the media and the Church. You must condemn homophobic and transphobic violence.

Before it’s too late.

~zb