The skirmish took place on a Saturday afternoon. Jan Pietrzak, a comedian known for his right-wing sympathies, was to give a concert at the Centre for Contemporary Art. In front of the building, the Law and Justice supporters distributed Andrzej Duda's campaign gadgets. Also in attendence were civil activisists with a rainbow flag and a banner criticizing Pietrzak.
"He hit me in the chest hard enough to take my breath away."
Pietrzak's fans threatened the participants of the small protests and wanted to tear out the banner. Dominika Sitnicka, a journalist from OKO.press, recorded the course of the brawl before the Centre. The film shows the fans of the right-wing bard shouting at the participants of the protest. "Bolsheviks, get out of here." - one woman in a hat screams. A man wearing glasses tries to knock a cell phone from a protester's hand and calls the journalist OKO.press a communist pig. At some point, an older man in a dark jacket - dissatisfied with the fact that he is being recorded - attacks the journalist with a lot of force.
- He hit me in the chest so hard that I couldn't breathe. I was in shock. I didn't know what was happening. These people were hysteric, aggressive, they felt attacked by our very presence - OKO.press quotes the reporter.
On Monday, Sitnicka filed a report on a violation of bodily integrity at the prosecutor's office. - Lack of reaction would mean consent to the growing aggression in the streets,' states Piotr Pacewicz, editor-in-chief of the portal, on the OKO.press website.
The experts emphasize that when participating in a public event, in the crowd, we have to acknowledge the fact that we might be recorded. - If the gentleman was aggrevied that the journalist was there, he could express it firmly, gently and without fear. A person always has the energy to act - in a good or bad way. The key is to hold your emotions in check," Piotr Toczyski, a sociologist from the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Maria Grzegorzewska Academy of Special Education in Warsaw tells Wyborcza.
He notes that crossing the border of physical contact is an alarming sign. - This is a deeply disturbing matter. It means entering the next level of the pyramid, at the end of which there are unfortunately very bad things. It all starts with language," Toczyski says.
It is no secret that such behaviour in society is influenced by how politicians talk to each other. - They provide example for us. Politicians have the same status as celebrities, they can shape our behavioural patterns. If they don't watch their language, when they turn towards war discourse, it affects the social mood. We should expect them to be aware that they shape behaviour of others," comments the sociologist.
- On the one hand, we have statements about "treacherous mugs" or "boorish rabble," recently in the Sejm. In response, the ruling camp argues that the opposition speaks rudely to journalists. For someone who simply follows the media, the words of politicians can be a signal to fight. In reaction, regular people will turn to aggressive behaviour. Someone may not be able to keep their emotions in check. There is no doubt that such attacks are unfortunately provoked by the hostile political climate that has now been created - says Piotr Toczyski.
The sociologist indicates that politicians often use dehumanizing language. - They dehumanize each other. It is much easier to hit someone we believe represents a group that is inhuman. That he is a servant of the regime, that he is an enemy of the homeland. This is very dangerous,' stresses Tochyski.
The attack on the journalist OKO.press was, in his opinion, 'an obvious violation of physical immunity', but it also indicates another aspect. - It can also be seen as an attempt to suppress press criticism. The journalists are traditionally protected by a kind of immunity, they reveal things that are not always to someone's liking. Every such case of an assault on a journalist should be publicised and explained in detail. Freedom and independence in the profession of a journalist must be strongly guarded," notes the sociologist from APS.
Every day, 400 journalists at Gazeta Wyborcza write verified, fact-checked stories about the coronovirus pandemic for you.
They are on the front lines in 25 Polish cities. They work on the ground, reporting from hospitals and airports.
We have decided to open online access to our news stories and special guides focused on the issue of public health, for free.
The access to information should be equal for all.