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If one were to come up with a ranking of the most grotesque charges brought by the Polish police, the competition would be considerable. Take, for instance, the charge of violating the bodily integrity of police officers... with a tote bag, allegedly committed by the Warsaw-based senior activist known as "grandma Kasia".
In Poznań, nearly a decade ago, an anarchist was accused of insulting a policeman by "spitting on his left uniform leg at knee level". The boy was coughing and spitting because a moment earlier police officers had treated him with tear gas.
Harassed for slipping a flyer under windshield wipers
Poznań police have just added another potential winner to the ranking of absurd and terrifying charges. An activist is being accused of littering because he placed a flyer on the windshield of a police car.
Artur Słomczewski, a 21-year-old anarchist, had already forgotten about the events of Saturday, October 24 of last year - after all, it was 9 months ago. A reminder came when a policewoman knocked on his door a week ago, telling him to appear at the police station the following day.
On that October day, a group of women supported by anarchists gathered in front of the former hospital building on Szkolna Street in the center of Poznań. They put up an image of Jarosław Kaczyński on the façade, symbolically declaring the empty building an "abortion clinic". The demonstration was a peaceful response to the tightening of the already strict abortion laws in Poland.
The police were surprised; three police cars pulled up. After giving several interviews, the activists began to disperse. There was no reason for an intervention. Then, Mr Słomczewski slipped an abortion-rights flyer under the windshield wipers of a police car. Police officers jumped out of their cars, grabbed Mr Słomczewski by his clothes and dragged him across the sidewalk.
- Let him go! What are you doing? Let him go! - shouted the activists. Officers dragged the 21-year-old to the police car, so the demonstrators surrounded the car. A few minutes later, Mr Słomczewski was released. - It turns out that I had my details taken by the police simply because I put a flyer on the windshield of the police car. You all saw what they did to me- said the activist.
21-year-old activist: Police officers didn’t even mention a ticket
That day, we spoke with Maciej Święcichowski from the regional police department press office. He refused to comment on the course of the intervention because he was not present at the site. However, he said one important thing: - the police only checked the man’s identity.
- When I came to the police station a few days ago, a policewoman informed me that I refused to accept a ticket in the police car. That’s a lie- Artur Słomczewski tells us. - I asked the officers in the police car if they were giving me a ticket. They denied it. They just opened the door and told me to leave- the activist adds.
The Poznań police accuse him not only of littering, but also of allegedly disobeying police orders. Before the officers rushed at Mr Słomczewski and dragged him across the sidewalk, they allegedly shouted that he should "stop!".
The 21-year-old activist pleaded not guilty and refused to give an explanation. The police are expected to file a motion for his punishment with the court. Mr Słomczewski is convinced that this is police retaliation: "we’re being harassed because of our activism".
Not the first time Poznań police are overzealous
Mr Słomczewski was questioned by police officers from the riot prevention unit (which functions under the auspices of the regional police department), but the case of littering is handled by the Poznań Old Town district police station.
- I got the impression that the policewoman who accuses me is doing it because she was ordered to do so, and not because she wants to – the activist tells us.
It is not clear who initiated these grotesque charges. The police station in the Old Town district is headed by inspector Michał Woźniak. The same police station has already become infamous for prosecuting the notary Joanna Jaśkowiak. The former wife of the mayor of Poznań, now an MP, was prosecuted for saying that she is "f*cking pissed off" at a women’s rights demonstration. It was a critical comment on the actions of the ruling Law and Justice party.
The police first asked to punish Ms Jaskowiak, and then seven other women who stood in solidarity with her in front of the police station. The police lost the case in court and the defendants were acquitted.
According to our sources, the regional police chief Piotr Mąka supposedly did not know about the prosecution of Joanna Jaskowiak, and when he found out, he was furious and saw it as overzealousness on the part of his subordinates. However, it was too late for him to react because the case already went to court.
The case will be decided in court
Are the charges against Mr Słomczewski another instance of Poznań police overzealousness? Andrzej Borowiak, spokesman for the regional police department, reports: - Police officers from the misdemeanor unit got a note from the police officers involved in the intervention, and then questioned them. On the basis of this report, they decided that an offence had indeed been committed. The case will end up in court.
Mr Borowiak also explains that the 21-year-old activist was questioned only now, because it was impossible to successfully serve him with a summons for questioning earlier.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, one of the officers from the regional police department tells us: - I don't think the chief of the police station knew about this case. His people deal with hundreds of cases. I think it is more likely that this assessment was made by the police officer in charge of the case. No one has questioned that. So, since the police station decided that the flyer on the window of the police car was a case of littering, it will now have to defend that accusation in court.
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