The first-ever Gay Pride parade was held in the eastern Polish city of Bialystok on Saturday, but the marchers faced violence from anti-gay thugs and conservative campaigners staged counter protests. Leaflets anonymously placed around the city ahead of the march said that streets would be “contaminated with LGBT bacteria.”
Almost 1000 marchers demanding of LGBT+ rights marched through the city some 124 miles northeast of Warsaw, waving rainbow flags and carrying banners
Counter-protesters yelled “God, honor and motherland” and “Bialystok free of perverts,” the pride marchers chanted “Poland free of fascists” in return. Bags of flour and other objects were thrown out of Communist-era housing blocks at the pride marchers, who were moving along the route through the Bialystok city center.
According to Polish officials, there were about 32 protests registered for Saturday, the majority in opposition to the pride march.
Bialystok’s Catholic Archbishop Tadeusz Wojda called on congregants to “defend Christian values” by attending the picnic, adding that the LGBT march was “an initiative foreign to” the region.
Flash bangs were set off by far-right groups outside a housing complex as they attempted to block pride marchers from proceeding any further. They did not succeed and the marchers continued on.
“We are in the middle of an ongoing wave of hateful propaganda, which is fueled by both the state and the Catholic Church,” said Hubert Sobecki, co-president of Warsaw-based LGBT+ organization Love Does Not Exclude.
The Pride march ended at 5 p.m. after it completed its route. Police deployed stun grenades and pepper spray to clear the far-right protesters.
Police arrested over 20 far right nationalist protesters, four of whom were suspected of committing crimes, including the use of threats and against officers.