BALKANINSIGHT: Mass arrest of LGBT people marks turning point for Poland

Claudia Ciobanu, Warsaw Balkaninsight

As BIRN reveals harrowing testimony about the mass arrests in Warsaw on Friday and amid subsequent actions by the police, LGBT activists warn that Poland is at a crossroads.

“I arrived at the Copernicus monument at around nine in the evening, and I was just speaking to people when suddenly a group of policemen appeared. One of them – maybe the commander – pointed to me and then two came and took me by the arm,” recounted 52-year-old Malgorzata Rawinska, one of the 48 people arrested Friday night in Warsaw during a protest in solidarity with an LGBT activist who has been jailed for two months.

“I was flabbergasted so I didn’t defend myself. I was asking on what basis they are arresting me, but they didn’t reply. Then people around started shouting I was a journalist, so the police got confused,” she said.

Rawinska hosts an online radio show and, at the time of her arrest, she was going around interviewing people about the events surrounding LGBT activist Margot S’s arrest earlier on Friday. But she’s an amateur journalist, so she couldn’t show a badge to prevent the police from detaining her.

Like the other 47 arrested on Friday night, she was released over the weekend after spending the night in jail, but is now facing up to three years in prison for, in the words of the charge sheet, “taking part in a mob, with the knowledge that its participants will join forces to violently attack a person or property.”

“I have been an activist for equality and human rights for over 30 years, but never in my life have I been as afraid as I am now,” Rawinska told BIRN following her release from prison. “What happened on Friday is a kind of greenlight to shout at us and attack us.”

“My face was on TV, so I am afraid – to go out with the dogs, to go shopping. But I will continue to be active, nevertheless. You cannot be silent; you cannot be indifferent,” she added…

Read more at Balkaninsight here.

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