WYPIERDALAĆ. Get the fuck out. This is the word heard everywhere across Poland now. I know, it’s vulgar, and redactor Čulik would probably try to smooth it out, but please don’t. We are journalists, and our duty is to inform, to tell how it is. And this is how it is: Poles don’t ask politely “would you be so kind to begin travelling in randomly selected direction at great speed?”. No, those times are already gone. There was a need for a postulate that even PiS and the clergy can understand. And so there is one: WYPIERDALAĆ.
Why? Because PiS just sneakily, through the back doors, with no respect to democratic will of the vast majority of Poles introduced de facto complete ban on abortion – I wrote an extra piece explaining how it happened and providing background, you can read it here. They managed to piss everyone and everyone took to the streets: women, men, football hooligans, farmers, miners, taxi drivers, motorcycle gangs, cycling clubs, name the group and they will be there, I am just browsing tweeter, there is too much to link everyone. The marches are everywhere, even in small towns, even in those considered so far to be bastions of PiS that never seen protests before. Even some police officers are openly supporting the women’s strike: a policewoman was filmed clapping for the protesters in Wrocław while in Kraków officers just joined the march.
At first citizens were offloading their anger at the Tribunal, PiS and Jarosław Kaczyński – this was the first target of spontaneous marches, although he protected his home with literally army of police officers:
Przed domem Jarosława Kaczyńskiego już nie jeden, a dwa kordony policjantów i ciasno zaparkowanych samochodów. W promieniu kilkudziesięciu metrów od willi strefa całkowicie zamknięta. @RMF24pl pic.twitter.com/U9Ci1HeQlS
— Paweł Balinowski (@PBalinowski) October 22, 2020
Then, the crowds realized, that the true evil here is the church, that for decades openly supported right wing parties and was forcing its ideology on the state. That’s why on Sunday the protests moved to churches. This is the gate of the Archbishop’s palace in Wrocław (the coat hanger is one of the symbols of the protests):
A gate to archbishop’s palace in Wrocław (coat hanger is a symbol of the woman rights protesters).
— Tomasz Oryński (@TOrynski) October 24, 2020
On Sunday protesters begun disturbing the masses. In Łódź a group of women dressed in Handmaid’s uniforms from the Handmaid’s Tale TV series entered the Cathedral, but they were pushed out by right wing thugs. In other places protests were less peaceful, the protesters interrupted the celebrations of the masses and had to be removed by the Police:
Poznań. Kobiety przerwały mszę w katedrze. Interweniowała policja. “Mamy tego dość jako katolicy”. Więcej w relacji: https://t.co/LlqEGUhUBU @EpiskopatNews @Abp_Gadecki #aborcja #piekłokobiet pic.twitter.com/T5cp18RIwc
— Piotr Żytnicki (@PiotrZytnicki) October 25, 2020
The neo-nazi and nationalist organizations quickly organized militias that began forcibly removing protesters. In Warsaw Police was present during the clashes between right wing thugs and group of protesters. The leader of right-wingers has been seen orchestrating police and directing them as per who has right to be on the church’ stairs and who don’t. Then when his people asked the police “can we remove those clowns?” the police officers said “By all means. This is your territory. And we will assist you”. After being given permission, the thugs threw two women off the stairs – one became injured and had to be taken to the hospital. You can hear the policeman giving permission here:
Policja wydaje zgodę bojówce Bąkiewicza na siłowe wyniesienie starszej kobiety ze schodów kościoła: ,,z terenu kościoła jak najbardziej to jest wasz teren’’ anarchia i bezprawie. pic.twitter.com/dRVs39Ud4V
— Fox Mulder (@PILNE24) October 25, 2020
Allegedly, there were also some police provocateurs, mixing with the crowd and throwing the bottles, giving the riot units a pretext to move in onto the protesters. Other scenes known from Belarusian streets were recorded like this one:
where policeman, trying to detain one of the protesters, has been chased away by the crowds.
Protests take various forms. Some are very cultured and polite – like that voice of a female law student, asking their professor – an illegally elected judge of the Constitutional Court – to quit, as while he might be an expert in the field of law he teaches, they don’t want to take classes and sit exams with someone with no moral values at all.
Studentka UG apeluje na wykładzie do prof. Steliny (sędziego TK) o rezygnację z powodu naruszenia etyki. Jako student prawa ze wzruszeniem wysłuchałem apelu. Prawo to co więcej niż przepisy, to również moralność #falasprzeciwu #CzarnyProtest #piekłokobiet
— Piotr Solka (@Piotrsolka) October 26, 2020
One thing is sure: the protests are the most widespread so far. In several cities, big and small, protesters decided to block the streets. While it has been met with overwhelmingly positive reaction from drivers, who often joined the protesters, there were examples of aggression. At least three cars plowing through the protesters have been filmed: in the first case it only ended with verbal exchange between a driver and protesters, second case resulted in some injuries:
The third one not only pushed through the crowds, but it was also driving wrong way on the one-way carriageway to surprise them. So far, we can only see the footage from outside, but no doubt we will be hearing something about protesters attacking the TV crews, as it was a car of the government controlled TVP:
— Michał Szczerba (@MichalSzczerba) October 26, 2020
Even those using their own cars to block the traffic are not safe: in Warsaw right wing thugs poured glue over the protester’s car, then attached a rope to it and try to pull it off the road using a Sprinter van.
The aggression is likely to escalate. Robert Bąkiewicz, one of the leaders of the extreme right organizes militias that will be tasked to “protect values of our civilisation”. The right openly threatens protesters with violence:
Poprosiłbym o oświadczenia także potępiające nawoływanie do przestępstwa ze strony “obrońców wiary”. Pomijając fakt, że taki nawoływanie stanowi zaprzeczenie nauczania Jezusa – miłosierdzia i szacunku. Nawet Papież wypowiedział się na ten temat. Dziękuję 🙂 pic.twitter.com/zCw5WPeSlM
— Łukasz (@Milukasz85) October 25, 2020
The government seems to be considering a forceful response as well, as the prime minister just ordered for the military to “support police in their duties”.
On the other side, there is a trend on Twitter where people en masse publish alleged home address of Kaja Godek, leading anti-gay and anti-abortion activist, with unique talent to piss everyone out. And by “everyone” I mean really everyone. This is a woman, who got bollocking from the Moomins! Yes, the Moomins! After she called degenerated fetuses “moomins”, the official Moomin profile gave some bollocking for using Finnish author’s work for her political gain, pointing out that “for Jansson the freedom of choice in life and art was one of the most important values”. It seems she had since deleted it, but I managed to secure a screen on my Twitter.
So what is the response to the protests? Well, the Church, that for decades was working hard to change the churches into a political platform by giving politically loaded sermons (or even allowing PiS politicians to speak from the altar), that was actively supporting right wing politicians and collecting signatures under proposed laws on abortion, marriage and LGBT, that for the last 5 years lived in symbiosis with the government, seems to be awfully surprised that the people who don’t agree with the church teachings also want to have their say there. Bishops can’t understand why people protest against the ruling of the tribunal in the churches, if it’s not the church who sets the law in Poland. Perhaps this letter from the episcopate to politicians urging them to stop abortion could shed some light on that mystery?
Right wing publicists and PiS politicians seems to be surprised as well. Those, who were abusing the electorate for years, suddenly are very concerned by the vulgar nature of some slogans and aggressive behaviour of the protesters. There is a certain irony that the same people concerned about the culture call them “savages” and “bitches”, as well as “stupid, ignorant pleb that is mad with hate”.
And what the church and PiS are doing? They just add more petrol to the fuel. The episcopate decides to pick a peculiar quote from the bible: “unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:3). The archdiocese of Białystok picked another quote “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you” (Luke 10:18-19). The quote is illustrated with the protest’ logo resembling a lighting – this is similar to the actions of TVP, that compares the lighting logo to Nazi symbolics.
And PiS? PiS gonna PiS. The outgoing Commissioner for Human Rights, who’s terms of office ended some time ago still hasn’t been replaced. The opposition proposed Zuzanna Rudzińska-Bluszcz, a young but experienced Human Rights lawyer supported by 1128 (yes, 1128 so far) NGO’s and institutions and most of the opposition, they humiliated her by ordering her to wait on the corridor for hours for the chance to speak that was never given to her, and then published a disgusting piece about her on TVP website suggesting, that she might be mentally unstable. And then, after clearing the ground, they’ve put forward the candidature of Bartłomiej Wróblewski – a PiS MP who led the efforts to introduce that abortion ban that sparkled the protests.
So what is Kaczyński’s plan here and will the protests succeed? I am afraid they might not. For the abortion ban to be reversed, the decision of the Constitutional Tribunal would have to be overthrown. For that, Kaczyński would have to admit, that it is not a valid institution any more, but just his puppet theatre. He will never do that.
There might be some changes to the abortion law, giving some symbolic concessions to women in the most drastic cases, but as long as PiS stays in power, the change seems impossible. And even if PiS will be removed from power, the question what to do about current Tribunal rulings remains. If that one would be upheld, then any change to abortion situation – even reversing to the 1993 law that has been in place since last week – would require changes to the constitution. Which might be an opening of yet another Pandora’s box.
In anyway, in this scenario he has nothing to loose. He openly said, after previous attempts to ban abortion ended in a fiasco, that “he’ll do it in situation, that would not end in such strong protests”. The middle of the protests seemed perfect, although the scale of the response probably took him by surprise. But he doesn’t care, as he quite enjoys rattling the stick on the bar of the cage he keeps the Poles in… And the protests are coming handy, as they took pressure of his government: now the disastrous response to the second wave of COVID pandemics and the skyrocketing number of infections can be blamed on the opposition. The TVP is already preparing the ground for it by showing the protests (they usually pretend that protests don’t exist) and suggesting, that we can expect rise in infection numbers, “just as Spain experienced after the feminist marches”.
* * *
Three years ago I wrote a piece in which I suggested, that Poland is already on the path to Belarussian-style regime. I got some angry e-mails from my readers, telling me that I exaggerate and I am spreading unnecessary panic and hysteria.
I sadly have to conclude that while we off course are not where Belarus is today, we might be already well past where Belarus was back then.
This piece was written for Britské Listy