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  • philippchmel

Solidarity with victimised protesters fighting anti-abortion law in Poland

Updated: Mar 5, 2020

On 3 October 2016, protests against tightening the anti-abortion law took place in 147 towns and cities in Poland. More than 150,000 people took part in them. One of the biggest and most turbulent of the Black Monday protests took place in Poznan, where about 10,000 people protested.

After several hours of protesting, 3,000 protesters went from there to the office of Law and Justice to express their opposition against the planned tightening of the abortion law. Before all the protesters reached the office, several people came out of the crowd, threw a couple of smoke candles at the police officers and mixed back into the crowd. When the smoke dispersed, the rest of the protesters reached the building where the Law and Justice Member of Parliament’s office is located. They put up banners and started shouting political slogans. The police officers present on the spot panicked and called for reinforcements. As soon as the police reinforcements joined them, the police started pushing the crowd and blindly hitting out at everyone, including those falling down, with truncheons, helmets and pepper spray.

As a result of this police violence, many people, regardless of age or gender, were injured, beaten, smashed and stung with pepper spray. The police pulled random people out of the crowd, and arrested three people - Maciej, Jack and Gosia. They were charged with assaulting officers and participating in an illegal gathering with the knowledge that its participants were committing violent assault on police officers. Joanna, who witnessed Gosia's arrest and, as one of the victims of the police violence, filed a complaint with the prosecutor's office that the officers had exceeded their powers, was added to the list of the accused.

Finally, six people were accused in this case - Gosia, Maciej, Jacek, Joanna and Iwona, who also complained about the actions of the police, and Paweł, whom Joanna mentioned as her witness.

The case against the police officers was quickly dropped, but the six protesters, on the other hand, have participated in monthly court hearings for two years. During these meetings about 60 witnesses of the prosecutor's office and about 30 witnesses of the defence were questioned. The testimonies of the police officers were contradictory and unreliable, and did not correspond to the testimonies of the defence witnesses and the recordings that were presented in court, in which they were standing peacefully with banners (Gosia and Joanna), were thrown to the ground by the police officers (Gosia, Jacek and Maciej), or asked about the reason for the detention of the accused and were pushed by the police officers or crushed by the crowd (Joanna).

Unfortunately, despite this, a conviction was passed. The protesters were sentenced to 10 months of restriction of freedom in the form of 20 hours of public work (in Maciej's case it was 12 months, Iwona and Paweł were acquitted).

Although the sentences are relatively mild, the way the case was conducted, the behaviour of the police, the prosecutor's office and the judge, are of a political nature, and their aim is to intimidate activists and discourage future protests. It is a case of classical political repression. Currently they are appealing the sentences.

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