After two years, justice for 14 woman human rights defenders in Poland

October 30, 2019

It was 11 November 2017 at the Independence Day march in Warsaw. For some years now this annual event, organised to mark Poland’s independence, had been tainted by the presence of some nationalist groups advocating “Europe will be white or deserted,” displaying racist and fascist symbols, while marching holding flares and throwing firecrackers on the streets of Warsaw. In 2017, these women decided it was time to act. As they unfurled a banner reading “Fascism Stop,” their peaceful protest against hate caused fury among the marchers. Video footage shows people reacting by kicking, spitting and screaming at them. They were called “sluts,” “lefty scoundrels” and “whores.” They were pushed, jostled, grabbed by the neck and dragged onto the pavement, suffering bruises and cuts. One of the women lost consciousness after being dropped on the ground and needed medical help. The authorities initially closed the investigation into the attacks with an absurd justification. But after the women appealed in February 2019, a judge ordered the investigation into the violence to be re-opened. However, adding insult to injury, the women were themselves charged with obstructing a lawful assembly and fined. And so their battle for justice began…..

Tomasz Stepien
The women being attacked at the Independence Day march in 2017.Tomasz Stepien

One by one the women stood up, said their full names and stated proudly that they wanted to be found ‘not guilty.’ Kinga, the last of them to speak, explained bluntly and movingly what compelled her to stand against hate on that night: ‘My grandfather was wounded in the battle of ’39. My mother went to the Uprising. My stepfather was in the home army in Kielce. My grandmother worked in a hospital. They are now dead and I am happy because I would not like them to see what is happening today.’

As the judgement was announced, suddenly I heard relieved sighs around the room. I turn to my colleague asking “what did he say?” and she confirmed: “They are not guilty! They are not guilty!” The judge upheld their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and, significantly, he told the women, “You were right.” As he finished, the room burst into a round of applause in celebration.

This case started with injustice but has finished with justice, and a message that fascism and hatred will not be tolerated in Poland.

https://www.euronews.com/2019/10/29/the-day-justice-was-finally-served-in-poland-for-vindicated-anti-fascist-campaigners-view

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