Poland is having its own Stonewall moment. It’s really exciting to see, as this is a very Catholic country.
A lot has been happening with LGBT activists this summer, but I want to focus on one story: about Małgorzata Szutowicz, LGBT activist who also goes by Margo, who was released on the 28 August after being jailed for 21 days in solitary confinement.
So… what did she do? Well, Margo is a founding member of Stop Bzdurom, which means “Stop Bullshit,” a group formed to protest against… well, the hateful, homophobic bullshit in Poland. From archbishops who talk about “rainbow plagues being worse than communism,” to cities declaring themselves LGBT-free zones, Poland isn’t a great place if you’re queer.
One of the targets for protest by Stop Bzdurom is the group “Pro-Right to Life” and their “stop pedofili” campaign, and in particular, their “homophobic trucks.”
I’ve talked about the campaign Stop Pedofili on this channel before, when I talked about Poland’s president insisting he doesn’t dislike queer people— just queer ideology!
This group, “Pro-Right to Life,” likes to drive around cities in cars with speakers on the roofs, blaring hateful misinformation that homosexuality leads to pedofilia. Let me stress that these speakers are loud— loud enough to interrupt my classes. When I say “homophobic truck,” that’s what I mean.
On the 27 of June, 2020, the truck was defaced by protesters, who ripped off posters, broke some mirrors, took off the license plates, slashed the tires and got into a fight with the driver. Personally, I think this is a completely legitimate reaction— and I’ll explain why I’m ok with it at the end of the video.
On the 14 of July, Margo was arrested for taking part in this, and was held overnight and released. Stop Bzdurom began a campaign to put rainbow flags on statues, including the Monument of Christ in Warsaw. It was a response, in part, to the E.U.’s announcement that it was blocking funds to the six Polish towns that declared themselves “LGBT-free zones.” On the 3 of August, she was arrested along with others, and charged with “insulting religious feelings and insulting Warsaw monuments.” Because that’s a crime. Putting rainbow flags on statues… is a crime.
Four days later, a court ordered Margo to be placed in pre-trial detention… for two months. That isn’t usual for Poland, at all. People usually aren’t jailed for months before a trial.
Although she agreed to go with the police on 7th August, they didn’t arrest her then. So, she and other protesters went to Krakowskie Przedmieście, a central street in Warsaw, where the rainbow-covered Monument of Christ was. Soon, several hundred protesters had gathered.
This is when things escalated. A police officer allegedly detained Margo using excessive force, as well as other protesters. Altogether, 48 people were detained by Warsaw police, and they were treated terribly while in police custody. They didn’t have access to food, water or legal aid, and had visible injuries from the police, a report by the Polish Commissioner found.
Margo was held from 7 of August until her release on the 28th of August. She’d been held in solitary confinement, likely out of fear she would be injured— Margo is both trans and non-binary. Her story is detailed in Polish Vogue, and trust me, it’s worth running through Google translate— although it is very difficult to read what she went through.
So, now I want to explain why I’m ok with the methods that Stop Bzdorum is using. I think it’s the right amount of force for what’s happening in Poland.
On the homophobic trucks: I’ve had my classes interrupted by these cars, and I’ve seen the looks on my students faces when they hear the garbage spewed from the speakers. Even if you want to holler about free speech, and ignore the piles of academic research that shows that homosexuality does not cause pedophila… I still want to know why these trucks can blast anything at all at such a loud volume. Does Poland not have any fricking noise ordinances?
I mean, I know why. It’s Poland. And hate is ok, when it pretends to be religious belief.
It says a lot about Poland’s priorities. Police protect these homophobic trucks from harm, while LGBT people are not protected by hate speech laws in Poland.
The argument that hate speech doesn’t lead to violence doesn’t hold up. In addition to the pride march that ended in violence in Bialystok in summer 2019, there was also a bomb a couple brought to a pride march in Lublin the same year. I’m sick and tired of hearing right-wingers insist that they’d be fine with queer people, if only their parades were so explicit!
Yeah, sure. You don’t go from being offended by something to taking a bomb to a parade. Or spray painting “Destroy LGBT” on buildings, like happened to mine in 2019.
Any argument that these activists are pushing too hard is missing the point: the Polish government, spurred by the right-wing, conservative ruling party, has allowed hate speech to flourish and spread. And that’s dangerous for queer folks.
If you want proof about how hateful the Polish right can be, go take a look at the comments on my video about the Polish president. It’s full of people furious at me for wearing a shirt with a rainbow Polish eagle, furious that a foreigner is talking about an issue in Poland, and angry with queer people.
Because it’s digging into a fight about what it means to be Polish— and how much power the Catholic Church has over the government. Under Communism, the Catholic Church became a rallying point for Poles who wanted to push back against the Soviet regime. With Pope John Paul II, a Polish bishop, the Church’s position as anti-Soviet was cemented.
However, the Church has used this to build political power, and the church in Poland is uncomfortably close with the government— as the church influences law. And we all know that the Catholic church has no love for the LGBT community.
Finally, the insistence that to be Polish means you must be Catholic ignores the long history of Jewish Poles, particularly in Krakow.
Two stray things I want to mention:
Tomasz Lis, the editor in chief of Polish Newsweek, described Margot this way.
And to end on a high note: This is magical. For non-Poles: the trunk in front drives around Poland blaring garbage about gays being pedophiles; the trunk behind it reads, roughly, “I’m a truck that reads nonsense on the internet and now drives around town screaming” Pure poetry, via Polish Youtuber Krzysztof Gonciarz.
Thanks for watching! Leave me a comment, or share this video.
This is magical. For non-Poles: the trunk in front drives around Poland blaring garbage about gays being pedophiles; the trunk behind it reads, roughly, “I’m a truck that reads nonsense on the internet and now drives around town screaming” Pure poetry.
Bomb brought to a pride parade in Lublin:
On Margot’s release:
To support Stop Bzdurom: https://stopbzdurom.pl/help-us/
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