Monday, November 21, 2005

Polish gays plead for help

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From UK Gay News: Please Help Us – Polish Gays Call to Europe
“We are going to do with you what Hitler did with the Jews,” counter demonstrators chanted.
Riot police close in a group of gay rights activistsWARSAW, November 21, 2005 — An impassioned plea has come from many gays in Poland today in the wake of the heavy-handed action of the riot police in Poznań on Saturday when more than 60 people were arrested during a peaceful demonstration. The message was simple: “Please help us”. The march was organised by a number of Polish women’s and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights organisations. Earlier last week, the march was ruled illegal by the Mayor of Poznań, Ryszard Grobelny, who is thought to have issued the edict under considerable political pressure from the Polish government. Despite the ban the march went ahead but was blocked by the police. The participants were arrested and interrogated. An email today from KPH (Campaign Against Homophobia) in Warsaw pleaded for help from other member states of the European Union. “Polish LGBT organizations ask all our friends in Belgium and England to organise demonstrations during those days,” wrote Tomasz Szypula, the secretary general of KPH. “It is very important for us because [the] Polish government is totally ignoring our calls. Please show your solidarity. Last Saturday 68 people taking part in The Equality March in Poznań were arrested. I was one of them.” They asked for urgent representations to be made to both the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, (the United Kingdom currently holds the presidency of the European Union) at to Jose Barroso, the President of the European Commission. Both are holding separate talks with the Polish Prime Minster this week. First to react to the plea from Poland was the Brussels-based IGLA-Europe. The organisation said it was “deeply disappointed and concerned” about the level of continuing and blatant discrimination against gays. “We are deeply concerned with the development is Poland for the last few months,” commented Patricia Prendiville, Executive Director of ILGA-Europe. “Such discriminatory acts by the Polish authorities as banning peaceful demonstrations in Warsaw earlier this year and in Poznań last weekend, closing down the Poland’s equality body are sending very worrying messages that Poland completely disregards its obligations it agreed to implement by joining various European organisations. “It is time for the European organisations and states to send their firm message to the Polish authorities that such behaviour is not tolerable and contradicts European agreement and values,” she insisted. ILGA-Europe is calling on both European organisations and individual European governments to immediately denounce such intolerable actions by the Polish authorities. By joining the European Union (EU), the Council of Europe (CoE) and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation of Europe (OSCE), Poland agreed on the principles of non-discrimination, equality and freedom of peaceful assembly. While there has been little coverage of Saturday’s arrests in the mainstream media outside Poland, the most comprehensive has been from perhaps the least likely place – Aljazerra. “Sixty-eight activists could face fines of up to 5,000 zlotys (US$1500) or up to one month in prison, said Miroslaw Adamski, spokesman for the district prosecutor's office in Poznan,” the Qatar-based news organisation reported. The Polish News Agency reported that about a dozen counter-demonstrators threw eggs at the marchers and some shouted: “We are going to do with you what Hitler did with the Jews”. While Polish hate crime law does not include sexual orientation, it does include anti-Semitic remarks. And a spokesperson for the Poznań police is reported as saying that they would charge those who made the remark for being offensive to an ethnic group. But Szypula is unconvinced. “A similar statement was made last year in Krakow by the police – but the police did nothing,” he said. Original source


I'll be giving a first hand account of the counter demos that are takin place in several cities in Poland this weekend in the beatroot blog.