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Last week, we have reported about the case of an eighth grade pupil from the elementary school in Krapkowice who was facing police intimidation. The 14 year old was informed that he would be investigated for sharing a post about a local Women's strike protest on his Facebook account., In the end, the court rejected the police's request for bringing the pupil to justice.
Now the police are intimidating a high school senior from the Lower Silesia town of Oleśnica, population 38 thousand.
In Oleśnica, the protests took place regularly from the end of October to early November. - At first, the police helped us to secure the streets. Before the protest the officers would call us and ask how our march route would look like. There were no problems whatsoever - says Laura Kwoczała, one of the organizers.
However, the Women's Strike protests in Oleśnica stopped on November 6, when another march was planned. - A policeman called me and invited me to the precinct. It was there that he explained that they were facing a shortage of officers due to an increased volume of coronavirus-related interventions and made it clear that our protest would be an additional problem. He said that they would have to call for support. He announced that the police would then have to take actions against the protesters, although he did not speak directly about their nature and potential consequences. It was a case of what we could call as "soft bullying," Laura, a high school senior, tells us.
Another summon to the precinct
Since that day, there have been no more protests in Oleśnica. This week, however, Laura received a notice that an important letter was waiting for her at the post office. She already knew its contents before opening the envelope. Her three other co-organizers received a letter with the same information.
- A notification of potential crime was submitted to the local prosecutor's office. On Monday, I am invited to go to the hearing as a witness in the case concerning the violation of Article 165 of the Penal Code. I know from the lawyers that it is a common practice to summon activists as witnesses. After we give our testimonies, it will be easier to charge us - Laura explains.
Article 165 of the Penal Code concerns, among other things, bringing about an epidemic threat. Such a crime is punishable by a prison sentence of between 6 months and 8 years.
- I am surprised by this development, although I knew that in Oleśnica the protests can lead to a conflict of values - we are not a big city. During our marches people were guarding the churches, even though we were not protesting in front of them. One of the local online portals was denigrating us and did nothing to censor the hateful comments posted by some readers.
In Laura's opinion, the actions of the police effectively scared people away from coming to the protests: - That being said, the very fact that we took to the streets was a sign of courage. The politicians from the ruling camp call us the plague spreaders, but it was them who behaved extremely irresponsibly by pushing through further abortion rights restrictions during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. They drove us out into the streets.
The case concerning police intimidation of the women's rights activists from Oleśnica is being monitored by the office of the Ombudsman.
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