Amidst rising hostility from Poland’s far-right government towards its queer community, thousands turned out in cities across the European nation to protest the dubious arrest of a prominent local trans activist.
Thousands of mostly young people, the majority of whom wore masks, gathered in Warsaw on Saturday to demand the immediate release of Malgorzata Szutowicz, a member of activist group Stop Bzudurum who was arrested on Friday, as well as the dozens of pro-LGBTQ protesters who were detained for trying to protect her on Friday, the Associated Press reports.
Police have put Szutowicz, also known as Margot, in a months-long pre-trial detention for “acts of civil disobedience” such as draping rainbow flags on statues and slashing the tires of a van that drives around blaring violently homophobic lies like “homosexuals are preparing society to accept pedophilia.” Many people reportedly tried to stop her arrest on Friday. Nearly 50 of them were themselves detained.
“Give us Margot back!” chanted protesters at Saturday’s demonstration outside of Warsaw’s Palace of Culture, per Reuters. “Rainbow does not insult you!” shouted others.
Similar gatherings were organized in Krakow, Lublin, Wroclaw, and other Polish cities, the AP notes.
The clash comes mere days after Polish Pres. Andrzej Duda was sworn in for his second term on Thursday. Duda, a member of the country’s far-right Law and Justice Party, has antagonized queer constituents since stepping into office in 2015. A self-styled opponent of what he calls LGBTQ “ideology,” Duda campaigned for re-election on a “Family Charter” of proposals that included outlawing same-sex marriage, preventing queer and trans people from adopting children, and banning LGBTQ-inclusive education in schools.
The Duda administration’s dehumanizing characterization of LGBTQ people, which echoes that of Brazilian Pres. Jair Bolsonaro, is arguably genocidal at its root, with Polish Minister of State Assets Janusz Kowalski recently declaring that “all of Poland should be an [LGBTQ]-free zone.”