Polands First Equality March

Bialystok’s first equality march had been marred by violence directed at the conservative Eastern Poland town’s LGBT+ community. Thousands of counter-protesters sought to inflict physical harm to the hundreds or so that turned out, throwing bricks, stones, eggs and even fireworks.

In the small village of Garbicz on the other side of Poland, Franek Machowski was volunteering alongside his work colleagues at the bar of a Polish-Berlinois festival. “At the end we were left with some tip-money - too little to share it, and too much to spend it on a new coffee machine”, explained Franek. After a suggestion from his colleague, the Berlin bartenders looked into donating to a LGBT+ cause in Poland. “I looked for queer organisations in my hometown, Kielce, and that’s how I found Prowincja Rownosci”.

Prowincja Rownosci, the Equality Province in English, is one of many LGBT+ organisations resisting the ever escalating anti LGBT+ rhetoric which has been a calling card for elements of the Polish Catholic Church, the governing PiS (Law and Justice) Party and affiliated politicians and anti-LGBT+ campaign groups.

In July 2019 they held the first Equality March in the city of Kielce in South East Poland, the area of the country where opposition is strongest and where a designated ‘LGBT+ Free Zone’ (free from LGBT+ people) has been enacted by the regional government since June of that same year. Thousands turned out to the march in support of equality, dancing in the streets while booed by their detractors, and connecting with their fellow community.

Polands First Equality March
Polands First Equality March
Polands First Equality March
Polands First Equality March

To date, this would be the only Equality March in Kielce due to the Covid pandemic, yet the rhetoric against the LGBT+ community only escalated further in 2020 through the Presidential re-election campaign of Andrej Duda. Core to his appeal was an aggressive and dehumanising stance towards LGBT+ equality, that “LGBT are not people, they are an ideology”.

A sequence of events that followed, including the arrest of 48 protesters in Central Warsaw and the detention and hunger strike of non-binary activist Margot of the Stop Bzurdom collective, became known as the ‘Polish Stonewall’.


Building a fundraiser from Berlin
Following Duda’s re-election and the events in Warsaw, members of Labour Berlin reached out to our Polish friends within the Labour Party and to organised Polish activists within Berlin.


We met with Franek, activists from Prowincja Rownosci and members of Razem Berlin, an international branch of the Polish left-wing party within the Lewica coalition alongside UK Labour’s sister party, the SLD. Also with the backing of the Polish Social Council - Polnischer Sozialrat e.V., the tips fund became a fully-fledged fundraiser.


How you can help LGBT+ activists in Kielce
Being together with people we love is something that surely resonates with all of us following this pandemic. Your donations to Prowincja Rownosci will help fund a fantastic billboard campaign during the traditional Pride summer season to build understanding and compassion between LGBT+ and non-LGBT+ people in Kielce.

You can donate through the link below with all your money going to the organisation*:
*I will pay any administration costs to GoFundMe personally.

For a wider list of activities and information on what you can do to show solidarity with Polish LGBT+ check out https://lgbtqpl.carrd.co.

We’d also recommend following LGBT+ activists and organisations in the region on social media such as @BartStaszewski on Twitter and @Stonewall_Poland on Instagram who both post in English.


Supporting the Women’s Strike
It would also be remiss of me not to mention the fantastic Polish Women’s Strike movement, drawing huge support within Poland and from the Polish diaspora, in defending the rights of women in Poland to access legal and safe abortions, and against threats from the Polish government to withdraw the country from the Istanbul Convention on violence against women.

By showing up in support of and adopting the demands of the other movement, Polish activists for LGBT+ and feminist liberation have built strong and widespread opposition to the establishment and have a much louder voice. These struggles are intertwined and “until we are all free, we are none of us free”.


Let’s do more for LGBT+ in Poland and further afield
While this project is a grassroots initiative from LGBT+ activists including those that are members of Labour International, some of us also participate in the LGBT+ network of the Party of European Socialists, Rainbow Rose, which you can become a member of.

This fundraiser is just one of the many projects we’d love to organise in support of and led by activists on the ground in Central and Eastern Europe. If you’d like to help us build capacity for work like this internationally, please contact us at lgbt-plus@labourinternational.net.

Originally published by the Labour Party LGBT+ Network on 6th April 2021

Mark Whiley

About the Author:
Mark Whiley (He/Him) is a former LGBT+ Officer of Labour International, the CLP for members of the UK Labour Party that live overseas, and most recently a Co-Chair and Secretary of Labour Berlin.

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