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On Friday, activists of the Women's Strike called for a protest in front of the house of the leader of the governing party, Jarosław Kaczyński - Of course, I am afraid of the coronavirus, probably like most people. But there are moments when you can't just do nothing. There are moments when you have to overcome your fear for your health and even your life, and go out on the streets to fight for something that is important. This is precisely this moment", Klementyna Suchanow, a writer and member of the Women's Strike, told us.

On the other side of many thousand people gathered in front of Kaczyński's villa, there were approximately a thousand policemen. The police was trying to interrupt the protests with repeated loud announcements about the state of the epidemic and the risk of criminal charges for not observing the lockdown regulations.

"Police cars scare me more than the pandemic"

When asked why she came to protest despite the pandemic, a young girl named Paulina told our reporter: - There are things that are important and then there are those which are indispensable. We, young Polish women, have a duty to take to the street and protest. I was afraid more of the police cars that I passed on my way than of the epidemic.

In response to loud police announcements which made it impossible for the protest leaders to deliver their speeches, the organizers decided to march from the Northern district of Żoliborz, where Kaczyński has his residence, to the city centre.

The police was taken by surprise that the crowd took over the streets. At first, the policemen did not even manage to close the traffic. People walked between the moving cars.

A mother and a daughter went to the protest together. They told us that "now  Law and Justice will probably want to blame the increase of coronavirus infections on women and our protests. But why did the ruling camp decide to have such a confrontation in a pandemic? The Constitutional Tribunal issued a verdict against which there is no appeal, and did so for purely political, partisan reasons. Protests in Europe against the authorities are now taking place in Belarus. Are we already a second Belarus?"

- No one will be able to drive across Warsaw tonight! The police sent us for a walk by jamming our protest, so we're gonna block the streets. On Sunday, we'll go to churches. On Monday we block streets, roundabouts, exit roads, all during rush hours. And on Wednesday we do not go to work. The ruling camp has until Wednesday to fuck off and retract the ruling. Remember, you have until Wednesday! - Marta Lempart, the main organizer, told the protesters in front of the residence of Prime Minister Morawiecki, where Kaczyński was hiding from the protesters, after they marched 9 kilometers across Warsaw.

"I won't be your martyr"

As announced, on Sunday hundreds of protests took place in front of churches across Poland. In front one of the main temples in Warsaw, the Church of the Holy Cross right across from the Presidential Palace, there was a skirmish between far-right nationalists and women's strike participants.

The protesters were standing in silence and holding banners with slogans such as "Stop breaking women's rights", "This is war", "Sadists are coming for you". Some brought posters with the image of a crucified pregnant woman. A rainbow flag flied over her head.

At some point, far-right nationalists appeared on the stairs of the Holy Cross Church, among them Robert Bąkiewicz, the leader of the annual far-right Independence March. They were allegedly there at the request of the parish priest.  

One of the women was trying to get inside the church. The policemen did not stop her, but after a while the far-righters caught her and violently removed her before throwing her down the church stairs.  The police allowed them to use physical force "to defend the private property", i.e. the church.

Sunday evening, several thousand protesters came to the metropolitan curia on Miodowa Street in Warsaw to protest against the Church's involvement in politics and its meddling with women's reproductive rights.

With a banner saying "I won't be your martyr", Aleksandra stood in front of the curia building. - I came here today because it was the Polish Church that lobbied the ruling camp to further restrict abortions. I fight for my rights. When I heard the sentence on Thursday, I felt powerless and pissed off.

 Gradually, another slogan became more and more audible: "This is war".

 This is the war that the government and the episcopate have launched against - the organizers growled through the megaphone. The crowd is picking up: - This is war!

***

Every day, 400 journalists at Gazeta Wyborcza write verified, fact-checked stories about the coronavirus 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.

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