An equality march held on July 20 in the northeastern Polish city of Bialystok was attacked by men linked to football hooliganism and nationalist circles, their violence incited by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party and the Catholic church, critics claim.
The issue of LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and other sexual minorities) rights has become one of the central themes ahead of autumn general election in Poland, where gay-bashing Law and Justice (PiS) is hoping to win second term. But it has also led to splits in the opposition.
Some 800 people attended the first-ever equality march in Bialystok. Police had to isolate the march from at least the same number of anti-LGBT rioters shouting insults, not infrequently interspersed with religious chants. Some participants in the march were attacked during and after the event, as documented by numerous videos posted to social media.
In one of the videos, a group of men is seen beating a teenager, who falls to the ground. A woman stepping in to protect the teenager manages to fend off perpetrators. The policy have detained 25 people following the attacks and is asking to help identify several more caught on pictures and videos.
In many reports from the march there are repeated claims that attackers targeted individual participants after the march in what some observers and commentators described as “pogrom-like” atmosphere.
Polish LGBT community is struggling under the PiS government, which claims that the “LGBT ideology” is a threat to traditional values in Poland rooted in Catholicism and family life. PiS-supporting media are running an anti-LGBT campaign as well.
A pro-government weekly Gazeta Polska has distributed free “LGBT-free zone” stickers with its latest issue, a move that outraged many – including the US embassy in Poland - but did not elicit a reaction from the government.