By Cathy Kristofferson, June 17, 2013
Saturday about 8 thousand marched in Poland’s annual Equality Parade, Parada Równości 2013, under the slogan ‘Fully-fledged Diversity’. Since Poland has become more accepting these days, the organizers decided to march for Russia and Eastern Europe where the LGBT communities are currently under attack. Prior to the parade bout 50 people held a protest at the Russian embassy. They waved banners in Polish and Russian, reading “For our freedom and yours”, “Stop homophobia in Russia” and “Solidarity with LGBT people in Russia.”
Marching in the Parada Równości were Polish politicians Anna Grodzka, Europe’s only transgender MP, and Robert Biedroń, Poland’s first and only openly gay member of parliament.
The parade was reported to be the largest and safest ever in Poland. And although, unlike previous years, no stones or bottles were thrown at marchers this year, it was reported that MP Biedroń was verbally harassed and assaulted after the parade.
“An aggressive man insulted us, using homophobic statements. He began to choke one of my friends and punched him in the face. When he recognized me he spat in my face, raised his fists and and kicked me in the stomach.”
Despite a letter of support, initiated by the Dutch Embassy and signed onto by the Ambassadors of 22 countries, including U.S. Ambassador Stephen Mull, neither Warsaw’s Mayor Gronkiewicz-Waltz nor Poland’s President Bronislaw Komorowski would support the event.
Even though there have been some gains toward LGBT tolerance and acceptance in the country, where Pride Parades have occurred since 2001, violence against gays and lesbians remains a problem in Poland. While last year counter protests by right-wing groups were allowed, this year the authorities did not allow any counter demonstrations to take place.
The police were able to catch and arrest the two people involved with Biedroń’s assault.
The Parada Równości participants marched to demand that the government pass a new act which will allow same-sex couples to have civil partnership contracts. Marchers also demanded that politics take an active role in ending discrimination against same-sex couples as well as all people who are not equal.
The Equality Parade was routed to pass a plaque at the headquarters of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy commemorating Izabela Jaruga Nowacka the legislator lost in the 2010 plane crash in Smolensk, Russia. The parade stopped and MP Biedroń laid a wreath to the well-known feminist activist who had been one of the most outspoken advocates for LGBT rights in Poland.
The Equality Parade then went past the the Palace of Culture and Science where the participants of the 5th Congress of Women came out to join the parade. Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk was a participant at the Congress whose motto this year was ‘Partnership, Solidarity, Equality’.
With conservative politicians and fundamentalist religious leaders advancing their homophobic attitudes and restrictive laws throughout Eastern Europe, including Poland’s neighbors Belarus, Lithuania and Ukraine, it is good to see a successful Pride happen, the MP’s assault aside.