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Pride organisations unite to support LGBTQ community 'under attack' in Poland

The Polish government supported the "LGBT free zones" throughout the country

2020-01-08

Words: Steve Brown

An emergency fund has been established to help LGBTQ Pride organisers after several events in Poland were attacked last year.

Over the last couple of years, a number of Pride events across Poland have been met with opposition and attacks, including the first ever Pride Parade in the city of Bialystok.

The peaceful march saw anti-LGBTQ people pelt the activists with rocks, glass bottles and firecrackers.

And now, in response to these increasing attacks on the Polish LGBTQ community – including the introduction of LGBTQ-free zones – several Pride organisers from around the world have contributed to the funding ahead of a conference of activists in the European country next week.

Kristine Garina, President of The European Pride Organisers Association (EPOA) and organiser of Baltic Pride in Riga, Latvia, said: “The far-right thugs and nationalist politicians who threatened and in some cases attacked the Pride movement in Poland last year will be encouraged by national newspapers declaring towns ‘LGBT free zones’, and by a government that makes no secret of its dislike of Poland’s LGBTI citizens.

“The European Pride movement will not stand by, and we are coming together to offer our solidarity and support to our colleagues across Poland.

“2020 will mark ten years since Warsaw hosted EuroPride, an event that many people saw as signaling a new dawn for Eastern Europe.

“It’s shocking and hugely disappointing that a decade on we are still having to fight for basic freedoms, but we will not be deterred and our members’ financial support shows how important this is to all in our movement.”

Copenhagen Pride donated around €2,000 and Pride in London and Sydney Mardi Gras both donated €1,500 – with EPOA giving €2,000 from its Solidarity Fund.,

Lars Henriksen, Chair of Copenhagen Pride, said: “We have been shocked to learn of declared LGBTI-free zones in our neighbouring country.

“This is similar to tales we grew up with about the Nazi era, where areas were also declared freed from a group of fellow citizens.

“I had never thought I would live to see this disgraceful story repeat itself as it does in Poland now. When as a child, I learned about the Holocaust, the questions that always arose were: why did no-one do anything to oppose the anti-Semitism?

“And what would I have done in similar circumstances? We cannot defend ourselves with not knowing or not being prepared.

“Now is the time to act. I am therefore enormously proud, on behalf of Copenhagen Pride, to support our colleagues in Poland.

“This is a signal to the Polish LGBTI+ community that we know what is going on and that we stand with you in solidarity.”

Michael Salter-Church MBE, Co-Chair of Pride in London, said: “50 years on from brave activists taking a stand at Stonewall, the appalling situation in Poland clearly shows that the fight isn’t over.

“Whilst we remain focused on furthering LGBT+ rights in the UK, we mustn’t forget those abroad who need our support.

“We must take a stand for our community in countries where their fundamental human rights are not being upheld.

“This emergency fund will help our siblings in Poland continue their vital work towards equality, and we urge members of the LGBT+ community to donate however they can.

“Beyond this, we must also continue to speak out in order to raise awareness of these shocking events - we have already seen how international attention can often disrupt the violent plans of Poland's far-right nationalists.”

Robyn Kennedy, of Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, said: “As a global community we have a responsibility to support LGBTIQ people in countries where basic human rights are being eroded.

“We cannot let hard fought gains slip away. We must stand up to regressive policies that reduce our communities to second class citizens.

“What is happening in Poland is the worst kind of political expediency, where LGBTIQ communities are demonised in an attempt to score electoral points.

“Attacks on our rights anywhere in the world is an attack on all of us."