A participant in Poland’s third Olsztyn Equality March on Saturday, May 20, was shot in the head by a BB air gun. This comes as Poland’s government established nationwide “LGBTQ-Free Zones.”
One of the march organizers, Olsztyński Marsz Równości, told a Polish news site that the woman, who was carrying a Pride flag, was shot in the head by a BB gun on her way to an afterparty following the march.
The woman suffered a minor head injury and was released from the hospital after a brief stay. The incident was reported to police, but no perpetrator was found.
Pride march organizers condemned the violence and called for equality in Poland.
“This is an attack on all of us!” a statement issued by Olsztyn Equality read. “Even if the police refuse to see a link between the shooting and the Equality March, we explicitly condemn this attack as an act of violence directed against the entire LGBTQIA+ community and its allies.
“This is what we face all over Poland, including Olsztyn. This is our home, and we have the right to feel safe here. You will not intimidate us!”
Poland is considered one of the unsafest places in Europe for LGBTQ people, according to ILGA-Europe, an advocacy group devoted to protecting LGBTQ rights in Europe.
ILGA-Europe determines a place’s safety level by assessing several factors including Equality & non-discrimination, Family Protections, and Hate Crime data.
This is not the first time Pride parades in Poland have gotten violent. In 2019, Bialystok hosted its first Pride and was met with far-right conservative groups that threw flash bombs, glass, and rocks at participants.
The current attack comes days after the European Commission began to withhold funding from Poland unless they end discriminatory policies, such as creating an “LGBTQ-Free Zone.” The country could potentially lose millions of Euros in funding.
Many attribute the rise in anti-LGBTQ attitudes in Poland to the PiS (Law and Justice) party leader Jaroslaw Kaczyńsk, who ran an election campaign on anti-LGBTQ policies.
One policy proposed by the PiS party demanded inspections of 2,000 LGBTQ-friendly schools to find “criminals and pedophiles.”
In response to the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, the European Union declared itself an “LGBT+ Freedom zone” in 2021 to address violations of fundamental rights for LGBTQ people in the EU.
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