[Marxism] Anti-Gay Brutality in a Polish Town Blamed on Poisonous Propaganda

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Jul 28 11:24:28 MDT 2019

NY Times, July 28, 2019
Anti-Gay Brutality in a Polish Town Blamed on Poisonous Propaganda
By Marc Santora and Joanna Berendt

BIALYSTOK, Poland — The marchers at the first gay pride parade here in 
the conservative Polish city of Bialystok expected that they would be 
met with resistance.

But last week when Katarzyna Sztop-Rutkowska saw the angry mob of 
thousands that awaited the marchers, who numbered only a few hundred, 
she was shocked.

“The most aggressive were the football hooligans, but they were joined 
by normal people — people with families, people with small children, 
elderly people,” she said.

They blocked her way, first hurling invective, then bricks and stones 
and fireworks, she said. From the balconies, people threw eggs and 
rotten vegetables. Even before the march started, there were violent 
confrontations, and by the time the tear gas cleared and the crowd 
dispersed, dozens were injured and Poland was left reeling.

Much as the racist violence in Charlottesville, Va., shocked the 
conscience of America, the brutality in Bialystok last week has rocked 
many in Poland and raised grave concerns over a steady diet of anti-gay 
political propaganda in the country.

In a show of solidarity with the L.G.B.T. community in Bialystok, 
thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Warsaw and other 
cities around the country on Saturday. They carried rainbow flags and 
vowed to combat intolerance.

“One week ago, the government betrayed the people in Bialystok, gays and 
lesbians,” said Pawel Rabiej, the openly gay deputy mayor of Warsaw. 
“Warsaw is for everyone and so should the rest of Poland. Solidarity 
will conquer the time of contempt.”

Since this spring, when the governing Law and Justice Party stepped up 
its anti-L.G.B.T. language in advance of European Parliament elections, 
the language has only grown more heated as national elections approach 
this fall.

Organizers of an L.G.T.B march in Bialystok, Poland. “I don’t want to 
leave this country, but I wonder if there is a place in Poland where I 
can feel safe,” said one.CreditAnna Liminowicz for The New York Times
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the governing party, told supporters 
at a July campaign event staged to look like a family picnic in 
Kuczki-Kolonia, a village in central Poland, that it was their duty to 
defend the nation from what he called Western decadence.

“We don’t have to stand under the rainbow flag,” he said.

In recent months, more than 30 localities have passed legislation 
declaring their region free from “L.G.B.T. ideology.” A national 
conservative newspaper, Gazeta Polska, distributed stickers so people 
could designate “L.G.B.T.-free” zones, a stunt that drew a swift rebuke 
from the American ambassador to Poland, Georgette Mossbacher, and others 
and was later banned by a Polish court.

A group in Warsaw called “Stop Pedophilia” has been traveling the 
country smearing gay people with baseless claims of abuse.

For weeks, the group set up a tent in the center of the old town square 
of Bialystok to spread its message. Even after the violence last 
weekend, the group’s truck still patrolled the streets, broadcasting its 
claims over loudspeakers.

Two weeks before the march, Archbishop Tadeusz Wojda issued a letter 
that was read aloud in all churches in Bialystok and the surrounding 
province of Podlasie, asserting that gay pride events constituted 
“blasphemy against God.” He invoked a Latin phrase that was once the 
rallying cry of priests fighting for freedom against Communist rule. 
“Non possumus,” he wrote. “We cannot accept this!”

Dozens were injured in Bialystok. The police have identified over 100 
people and accused them of attacking the marchers. At least 77 have been 
fined or charged. One man was accused of beating a 14-year-old boy.

In the week that followed, the violence was condemned by officials from 
both the governing party and the church — though both also denied 
responsibility for fomenting fear and hatred.

Jakub Przybysz is well acquainted with the hatred directed at gay people 
in many parts of the country. It is why he hid his sexuality for years.

Even before the recent anti-L.G.B.T. campaign, it was not easy being gay 
in this conservative town. There are no gay-friendly clubs or 
coffeehouses. It would be crazy, he said, to walk hand-in-hand with a 
same-sex partner.

“The only open life you can live is in your own apartment,” he said.

Still, when he learned that Bialystok County had been declared a region 
free of “L.G.B.T. ideology,” he was “shocked and horrified.”

Bozena Bierylo, a Law and Justice councilwoman from the Bialystok 
County, said that the legislation was a response to “provocations” from 
L.G.B.T. minorities and their “demands” for sex education classes.

Still, she said, “any violence is unacceptable.”

Mr. Przybysz said that the anger he witnessed at the march has been 
fueled by language from political and religious figures.

His account, along with those of other eyewitnesses and videos, showed 
how quickly a mob mentality can grip a community.

The march was supposed to begin at 2 p.m., but a group of people who 
wanted to protest against the event were granted a permit for the same 
day. Extremist groups put out calls for supporters from across the 
region to join them.

They assembled on a grassy knoll overlooking the Square of the 
Independent Student Association, once the site of an old Jewish cemetery 
that was buried by the Communists after the war.

Ms. Sztop-Rutkowska, a sociologist, said that as she was surrounded by 
thousands of angry protesters, perhaps the most chilling thing was that 
there were familiar faces in the howling crowd.

“I recognized a former neighbor,” she said. “A friend recognized their 
doctor. A student of mine saw a counselor from her child’s school.”

“One young girl from Warsaw came up to me and asked if she could stay 
with me,” Ms. Sztop-Rutkowska said. “She was so terrified she burst into 

All along the way, they were met with scorn and derision. One image that 
has spread around the country showed a man, his small child in a 
stroller in front of him, confronting the police and shouting at the 
marchers as he tried to stop them.

An older lady on a balcony waved at the marchers only to be met with 
shouts from hooligans in the crowd. “We know where you live, you whore!” 
they chanted.

Videos showed mobs chasing people. One ended with a young boy being 
stomped on by a group of large men.

Talk of the violence has gripped Poland in the days since, with endless 
hours of discussion on radio and television.

Even as political leaders and church officials have tried to distance 
themselves from the violence, the campaign against the L.G.B.T. 
community has shown no signs of abating.

Przemyslaw Witkowski, a journalist, was riding a bicycle with his 
girlfriend in the city of Wroclaw on Thursday evening when he spotted 
anti-gay graffiti and told his girlfriend it was shameful.

Apparently, someone overheard Mr. Witkowski. A short time later, a man 
confronted him.

“You don’t like this graffiti?” Mr. Witkowski said the man asked him.

“I said I did not,” Mr. Witkowski responded.

The man attacked him.

“He beat me badly, leaving me on the ground bleeding,” Mr. Witkowski 
said from the police station in Wroclaw on Friday, where he was 
undergoing a physical to catalog his injuries, which included a broken 
nose and fractures in his face. The photos of his bloody face have been 
widely shared across the country.

Mr. Witkowski has written about extremist groups and said he was worried 
for his country.

“We are unleashing things that in the future cannot be stopped,” he 
said. “It is happening.”

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