Warsaw's Equality Parade controversial with Poland's conservatives

Equality Parade, photo: poland.indymedia.org

For two consecutive years there's been a ban on a gay pride march in the Polish capital Warsaw. But this year's event, called the Equality Parade, was finally allowed to go ahead. It attracted German and Swedish politicians, who had supported the initiative. But the event remains controversial with Poland's conservative authorities. This report by Gabriel Stille:

This year, the parade was proclaimed legal after a decision from the Supreme Court, and a planned counter rally was called off. Some 3000 participants took part in the march which took the route along the Marszalkowska Street past the Palace of Culture and further on to the Theater Square. Most spectators were positive or curious.

Some voices from participants:

"I think it's very good, and it is very needed, because in our country we have a lot of xenophobes. All of us must come and be together. I am not a gay, but I think that everybody is the same."

"I'm very happy that I'm here, it's so much fun. I didn't expect that so many people would come. Nobody is hurt, and now we are showing people that we are normal people who can have fun and be friendly. That's wonderful! I've met so many wonderful people, so happy, so friendly."

Also, politicians from Germany, Sweden, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Britain took part in the parade. Emine Bozkurt is a Member of the European Parliament from the Netherlands, representing the Social Democratic party.

"I think it is very cheerful, we are walking here and all kinds of people who are looking here on the side are warm and welcoming, I was not expecting that, so I hope it will go on like this, because it is a very important day. A day of celebration for the Polish people, because it is about equal rights, and equal rights are for everybody, that is what the European Union is about."

Michael Cashman is an MEP from The United Kingdom, representing Labour.

"I think the march has been a wonderful positive surprise, and I think the reception has been very good so far. I've always believed that the hate speech that we have heard, from some of the senior Polish politicians, is not representative of the great Polish majority. So, here we have the march, people are still living, nobody's fallen out of the sky, so it goes to show that diversity can be celebrated."

The parade was preceded by a debate in the Parliament Building, arranged by the Democratic Left Alliance. Participating European politicians and gay rights activists all declared their solidarity with the Polish LGBT-movement in times when high-ranking Polish politicians have made hateful statements against it. Volker Beck, Green Party representative to the German Bundestag:

"I think we should guarantee, all the human rights defenders, be they gay, lesbian or whatever else; if they are struggling in a European country for equal rights, for their fundamental rights of assembly, of association, of freedom of speech, then this is a European issue for all European democrats. And today it is a historical situation, a historical hour, because I think this is the first event, when problems in one member country of Europe mobilize democrats from all over Europe. And we say: This is not a problem of this country, for the citizens who live here, it is a problem for democracy in Europe."

This year, no big counter-rally was held, only small groups were posted along the way. The police were able to stop some attempted attacks and 14 people from extreme right-wing parties were detained. The leader of the League of Polish families, Roman Giertych, who earlier urged both sides to not take to the streets, spoke against the Warsaw city authorities for letting the Pride march be held.