Saturday's equality march, which was partly organised to call for gay rights, passed without any serious incident due to heavy police security.
Such was the worry that the march would be hijacked by violent right wing radicals, it was deemed necessary to deploy a stream of police officers, many of whom were in riot gear. Nevertheless, that didn't stop the protesters from suffering a barrage of verbal abuse from afar and online, with a sizeable contingent voicing their opposition to homosexuality in an uncompromising manner.
Saturday's march and its accompanying police force understandably attracted a fair number of casual onlookers and photo-snappers, who were no doubt intrigued by what was going on around them. Not all of the spectators reacted in the same manner however, with some observers opting to give one finger gestures or shout "zakaz pedałowania" (which more less translates as "stop the poofs") towards those taking part in the march. Most of the people screaming out the abuse were followers of the NOP, who don't take kindly to the idea of homosexuality at all, let alone same sex marriage.
On Saturday 29 people were arrested for trying to interfere with the march, some of them by throwing eggs at the protesters. Despite not being granted permission for their own official counter demonstration, the NOP refused to back down and laid on their own protest in small groups to avoid being arrested. One such group revealed a giant "Zakaz Pedałowania" banner on Świdnicka street, right under the noses of the pro-gay rights supporters.
The torrent of abuse towards the LGBT community was also visible online over the weekend. The comment posting facility on a Gazeta Wrocławska website article had to be removed following a series homophobic utterances. Some users labeled homosexuality as a 'disease' while others claimed it was 'sick' to see the same sex couples kissing at the march. Anti-gay comments such as the one picture below were also visible on Facebook over the weekend:
"Man, woman – normal family" – an example of some anti gay comments on Facebook over the weekend
Less probing comments saw some people undermine the march by pointing out there were more police officers at the event than protesters. Around 300 participants turned out in force to push for more tolerance in Polish society, which although less than hoped, was double the amount that had attended the year before.
300 people took part in the equality march on Saturday
The Wrocław page of the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, loathed by some Poles for chastising football fans and not being patriotic enough, also had its fair share of homophobic comments from users. Nevertheless, it had to be said the debate was a lot more constructive than on the stream that Gazeta Wrocławska decided to remove.
Of course, there were also a number of comments on these pages supporting the protesters, as well as a marked amount of those ashamed by some of the aforementioned posts. Comments such as "European Capital of Culture? You must be joking!" were particularly common. In terms of the online traffic however, those where in the minority.
One can observe then, that the LGBT community in Poland have a lot to do to gain the society of tolerance they shouted for on Saturday. Nevertheless, if the plan was to get their case heard – then the march certainly achieved it. The irony here is who helped them. Had the NOP and others of a similar persuasion not been so against their protest, the ballistic police presence and live media coverage simply wouldn't have been there. 300 protesters walking through Wrocław to an indifferent public would have attracted zero press attention. That same number however, coupled with an enormous police entourage and the threat of potential violence, ensured that the local media were out in strong numbers to cover the event.
It begs the question, did all the verbal abuse and threats of violence by the NOP actually help push the equality march further up the media's agenda? And if it did, has it helped the protesters cause? Only time will tell …