Thousands protest in Poland demanding release of LGBT activist

by Reuters
Saturday, 8 August 2020 18:13 GMT

FILE PHOTO: Activists for LGBT+ rights at a protest in Poland on July 7, 2020, in a handout image provied by ILGA-Europe. Aleksandra Perzynska / KPH

Image Caption and Rights Information
Dozens of people were arrested after trying to stop police detaining an activist accused of draping rainbow flags over statues

By Alicja Ptak and Marcin Goclowski

WARSAW, Aug 8 (Reuters) - Several thousand people waving rainbow flags protested on Saturday in the centre of Warsaw to demand the release of an LGBT activist accused of hanging rainbow banners over statues and damaging an anti-abortion campaigner's van.

Crowds chanted "Give us Margot back!" and "Rainbow does not insult you!" outside Warsaw's Palace of Culture.

The peaceful gathering applauded activists hanging another rainbow flag on a statue in front of the Palace, while police officers filmed the performance and the protest leaders.

On Friday the police detained 48 people, who were trying to stop the authorities from jailing Margot, the activist accused of hanging flags on statues of Jesus and others and destroying a the van of an anti-abortionist.

"We are here to protest against the fact that these people were detained by the police," Mateusz Wojtowicz, 24, a payroll specialist, told Reuters.

The police started releasing detained protesters on Saturday, but not Margot.

She is a member of the activist group "Stop Bzdurom". The group have said they hung flags on statues last week as part of a fight for LGBT rights, an issue thrust into the heart of public debate in Poland during last month's presidential election.

The commissioner for human rights at the Council of Europe, a rights watchdog, called for the immediate release of the activist.

"Order to detain her for 2 months sends very chilling signal for freedom of speech and LGBT rights in Poland," Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic tweeted.

The ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party says LGBT rights are part of what it calls an invasive foreign ideology that undermines Polish values and the traditional family.

Condemning Friday's protest, Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro said authorities had to act or face "even more violent" attacks by activists. (Reporting by Marcin Goclowski and Alicja Ptak; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Gareth Jones)

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