Welcome to the weekly Newsletter of Wyborcza in English, this week, the ruling camp's anti-LGBT campaign reached new, dark heights after the police arrested several activists for hanging rainbow flags on Warsaw monuments.
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According to the prosecutor’s office, the case concerns “insulting monuments commemorating historical figures and events by placing rainbow flags and masks with an anarchist symbol on them, and sticking sheets of paper containing a manifesto on their bases. The act is a violation of law regarding insulting religious feelings by publicly insulting the object of religious worship. 

By organising a hunt for alleged "rainbow criminals", the Polish state openly reached for tools of political terror. One of the activists was pulled off the street without hearing any charges by undercover agents. She was handcuffed and put into an unmarked vehicle.  Another one was captured in her friend’s apartment. Finally, the third suspect was captured by the police as far as in the secluded south-eastern region of Bieszczad and convoyed 400 km back to Warsaw. All were held in police custody.

This is how the ruling camp and its propaganda went after a handful of people who did not commit any crime, but only exercised their constitutional right to demonstrate and express their views by hanging rainbow flags on the statue of Christ the King, the Warsaw's Mermaid and some other statues in the capital of Poland.

Their gesture was a response to the campaign of intolerance and sowing of hatred against sexual minorities by the institutions of the state, its media and the dominant Catholic Church in Poland. This mild political demonstration is now being met with unbounded repression

In a sign of protest, MPs from the Left party appeared at Andrzej Duda’s swearing-in ceremony wearing rainbow coloured facemasks. They also brought a rainbow flag. Commenting on the political gesture, one of the MPs, Katarzyna Kretkowska, said that it was a “sign of solidarity with the activists recently arrested for hanging rainbow flags on the mermaid statue. It was also a sign of solidarity with all those who are repressed, disdained, and treated as >second-tier< citizens”. 

In yet another example of an all-out campaign aimed at erasing any pro-LGBT symbols and gestures, the Chancellery of the lower chamber of Polish parliament, the Sejm, deleted a symbolic picture showing the newly re-elected president in front of opposition MPs wearing rainbow-colored face masks from its official account on the photo sharing platform Flickr .

This is especially important given that the ruling camp is investing a lot of effort into harassing independent media outlets, including through strategic lawsuits against public participation. As our deputy editor in chief Piotr Stasiński explains in an interview for European Centre for Press & Media Freedom, Gazeta Wyborcza is currently facing more than 50 lawsuits brought forward by the ruling camp and the companies it controls, a grand majority of which aim only to intimidate and silence us. 

As an example, Wyborcza is facing several lawsuits for revealing that the government purchased face masks which did not have any viable certificates that would allow them to be used as personal protection equipment against the coronavirus. 

Meanwhile, Poland is entering the second wave of Covid-19, with a significant spike in diagnosed coronavirus infections this week. The record of new daily infections was broken three times over the last four days, with a new all-time height reaching more than 800 people on Friday.

Earlier this week, the Minister of Health, Łukasz Szumowski, announced new regulations aimed to stop the spread of the coronavirus epidemic. Large events such as weddings are to take place under strict supervision of the sanitary inspectorate and will have to be registered. The Minister also mentioned shop inspections to check whether customers and staff are wearing face masks or visors. Business owners should also expect higher fines for not complying with sanitary rules .

Given a recent spike in new coronavirus cases in particular places around the country, on Saturday, the Minister of Health will introduce tougher restrictions in 19 selected districts. The districts were classified into red (higher number of cases) and yellow zones. People living in „red” districts will have to comply with a mandatory order to cover their faces in all public places .

If you want to know more, please join us at: wyborcza.pl/newsfrompoland

Thank you for being with us. There is no freedom without solidarity.

Miłosz Wiatrowski

Newsletter’s Editor

PhD candidate in Contemporary European History, Yale University 

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