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Gay March Banned

2005-11-16 14:11:08 / News read 3932 reading
The mayor of Poznań, a metropolitan city in western Poland, banned a gay parade on Tuesday, Nov. 15.

The Poznań march, expected to gather some 500 demonstrators, was supposed to take place on Nov. 19 as part of the Days of Equality and Tolerance in Poznań, organized by leftist, ecological, and feminist groupings.

A similar, though legal, event was supposed to take place in 2004, but was blocked when far-right activists of the All-Polish Youth, an organization affiliated with the far-right League of Polish Families (LPR), began throwing stones at demonstrators.

Anna Szpytko, the spokesperson for the Poznań mayor Ryszard Grobelny, said Tuesday, Nov. 15, that the decision was made due to security concerns. Organizers of the parade, called the Equality March, claim Grobelny gave in to the demands of the ruling right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party and the far-right LPR, its informal parliamentary coalition partner.

LPR, its affiliates, and the daily Nasz Dziennik, held by a religious right group that also runs the radio station Radio Maryja, have fiercely criticized the march. Local PiS and LPR politicians, as well as the members of the Social Council of the Poznań Archbishopric, said the march would cause "depravation and pose a threat to the Poznań residents."

The Poznań municipality and Mayor Grobelny had earlier indicated there were no reasons for the ban. The decision comes half a year after a similar march was planned and banned in Warsaw by the mayor of the capital Lech Kaczyński, who was elected Poland's new president on Oct. 23.

The Poznań city official Katarzyna Wilk was quoted by the PAP news agency as saying the ban was issued after consultations with the police and the road authority in the city.

The mayor of Poznań decided that there is a conflict between the rules of the freedom of gathering and the protection of private property. Wilk reportedly said, adding the city had earlier asked organizers to turn the march into a stationary picket, but the offer was turned down.

The Greens 2004, one of the organizers of the march, indicated Tuesday they would appeal the decision of the Poznań mayor to the voivode, or the representative of the central government in Poznań. According to the organization a picket is one of the options considered.

Izabela Kowalczyk of the Greens 2004 was also quoted as saying that the ban is a political decision that has nothing to do with security reasons. She said her organization had earlier been assured by the local police of the readiness to ensure security during the march.

"I am sorry that the mayor of Poznań surrendered to the demands of the politicians from PiS, LPR, and the All-Polish Youth. I'm sorry that tolerance and democracy fell under this pressure" Kowalczyk said.

After banning the gay marches in Warsaw in 2004 and 2005, Poland's ruling PiS indicated they would not allow homosexuals to teach schoolchildren, while Poland's new Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz said in an interview with the Polish version of Newsweek he considered homosexuality abnormal.

The new Polish minority government, led by Marcinkiewicz and supported by far-right and leftist populists, has recently decided to liquidate the Office of the Government Plenipotentiary for the Equality of Men and Women, which also promoted equal treatment of homosexuals.

The official plans of turning it into the Office of the Government Plenipotentiary for Family and Women were also undermined Monday, Nov. 14, by the daily Nasz Dziennik, which criticized Joanna Kluzik-Rostkowska, a candidate for the government plenipotentiary, for her public support of artificial insemination. Polish Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz put her nomination on hold after those protests.

On Tuesday, Marcinkiewicz told reporters the office would not be created, while Kluzik-Rostkowska will have the rank of the undersecretary of state at the Labor and Social Policy Ministry, effectively becoming Deputy Labor and Social Policy Minister.

The decision to ban the Poznań march comes on the 20th anniversary of the start of the Hyacinth law enforcement action in Poland, aimed at secretly gathering information about homosexuals by the security forces. The action began on Nov. 15, 1985, on orders of the communist Internal Affairs Minister Czesław Kiszczak and lasted for two years, during which the police, then called the militsiya, gathered information about some eleven thousand homosexuals, many of which they interrogated and fingerprinted.

Homosexuality has not been illegal in Poland since 1932.

by Marcin Sobczyk - Warsaw Independent
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