Ten artykuł czytasz w ramach bezpłatnego limitu

Follow the big issues that shape Polish politics and society by signing up to our weekly newsletter "News from Poland: Democracy at Stake". It allows you to stay up to speed on developments concerning the ongoing assault on democratic institutions, rule of law, and human rights in Poland.

It all began with a Tweet from the anti-repression activist group „Szpila”, whose members provide legal assistance to people arrested during the protests. “We’ve received a call from a lady living in the Warsaw district of Ursus. Her home has just been raided by the police. Her husband and children were on the site. The intervention had probably something to do with the national flag with the Women’s Strike symbol hanging from her balcony”- the Tweet reads. An hour later, the group posted a follow-up message: “Police officers are already gone. Tenants were called in for questioning. Reason? Desecration of the national flag with a lightning bolt symbol”.

Two police officers, one of them in sweatpants

The intervention took place last Saturday, December 12. We’ve reached out to “Szpila” to get in touch with the couple whose home has been raided. We also contacted their lawyer.

-It happened shortly before 8:00 pm. I was just putting our children to bed. The kids are small: 5, 7, and 9 years old. I took the day off at work to support my wife, she participates in the Women’s Strike protests. Suddenly, we heard the doorbell, it rang rather frantically. I rushed to open the door immediately, thinking that something bad might’ve happened to one of our neighbors” – the man reports. – When I opened the door, I saw two police officers standing in front of me: a female police officer in a uniform (the district police officer, it later turned out), and a man dressed in sweatpants with a police badge on them. They forced themselves into our apartment. When I asked them to leave, the woman began to warn me that I shouldn’t make things any more difficult. She repeated that a few more times. I wasn’t informed about the purpose of the intervention. Only when one of the officers asked if he can go out on the balcony, I realized that it might be because of the flag.

Four police officers and a neighborly intervention 

The man recorded the police officer as he was taking down the flag that was hanging from his balcony. Meanwhile, he tells us, the female police officer shouted, warning him that he shouldn’t interrupt the intervention and asked him to identify himself. In the video, one can also hear one of the children crying.

-I called my neighbor, a high-ranked military man, a colonel. I wanted him to be my witness. He answered, saying that he’s at home, but then he hung up. So I asked my oldest child to take the elevator and get him," says the man.

He also called his wife, who in turn notified a lawyer. Then, the colonel neighbor came down and stood at the door as the police officers tried to get his ID. He said that he could only show them his ID in the presence of the military police corps, whom he then called. The police officers called for backup, too.

- The whole situation had been turned into a farce- the man admits. The police officers at the site called for two more policemen, and within several minutes, three military police corps officers appeared as well.

Police had no warrant

The man whose home has been raided claims that police officers were acting aggressively. –I’m not going to let them get away with it, especially since I have it on record. I’ve lived here for ten years and I’d rather not have people like these “serve and protect” me; they are the danger- he says.

His lawyer, Bartosz Obrębski, explains: -Police did not follow the necessary procedures. The prosecutor did not issue an order or demand confiscation of the object in question. The police officers entered the apartment without presenting any documents.

He also points out that they did not care to use any courtesy forms towards the people present in the apartment and repeatedly addressed them with contempt. They also did not ask to have the flag handed over to them voluntarily. - In my opinion, it was supposed to produce a chilling and intimidating effect – Mr. Obrębski says. And he adds: - This flag has been hanging there for a month, they could’ve come for it on Monday.

„The prosecutor’s office has already been notified"

The man who told us about the police intervention in his apartment said that, so far, he has not been presented with any charges, nor has he been shown any notes from the intervention. - I was supposed to report at the police station the next day, but when I did, I was told that they did not know why I came there because the papers were already sent to the prosecutor's office. So, now I’m just waiting for the indictment - he says.

Policing national symbols

Lieutanant Karol Cebula, the spokesman for the regional police headquarters, claims that the police officers intervened the same day they received a report from a third party. The intervention took place because of an act of “desecration committed against a national flag, on which someone placed the symbol of a lightning bolt”.  

The spokesman assures us that the owner of the apartment opened the door for the officers and, after hearing the purpose of the visit, voluntarily let them in.

He emphasizes that "in accordance with the procedural law", the activities of securing traces and evidence must take place "immediately during or immediately after the disclosure of the crime". - The entire intervention lasted less than an hour, and was carried out without the use of any means of direct coercion- he points out.

The Prosecutor's Office for the Warsaw Ochota district is in the process of reviewing the material evidence.

***

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.

Gazeta Wyborcza Foundation
DONATE
Czytaj ten tekst i setki innych dzięki prenumeracie

Wybierz prenumeratę, by czytać to, co Cię ciekawi

Wyborcza.pl to zawsze sprawdzone informacje, szczere wywiady, zaskakujące reportaże i porady ekspertów w sprawach, którymi żyjemy na co dzień. Do tego magazyny o książkach, historii i teksty z mediów europejskich. Zrezygnować możesz w każdej chwili.