Polish police arrest 25 people after attacks on first LGBT march

A photo posted on social media of police arresting an anti-LGBT protester
A photo posted on social media of police arresting an anti-LGBT protester Copyright REUTERS/Magda Bogdanowicz
By Caroline MortimerReuters
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Police in Bialystok have arrested 25 men after videos on social media showed attacks on LGBT activists taking part in the city's first Pride parade


Police have arrested 25 people in eastern Poland after homophobic attacks on a city’s first equality march.

Videos posted on social media showed show men attacking several males and one female LGBT activists taking part in the Pride march in the city of Bialystok on Saturday.

Addressing the attacks, interior minister Elzbieta Witek said “Officers ensure security regardless of the ideas, values and beliefs proclaimed by citizens.

Read more: Poland's ruling party picks LGBT rights as election battlefront

“Any person who breaks the law (...) should know they can be held responsible.”

It comes after LGBT rights have become an increasing issue in Poland ahead of the general election which is expected to take place in October.

The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has depicted LGBT campaigners as a threat to traditional Polish values.

Actvists marching during Bialystok Pride in PolandREUTERS

This year, at a political rally before European Parliament elections, PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski urged Poles to vote for what he called "the only party that gives a 100% guarantee that our values will be protected".

He said LGBT rights constitute foreign values that pose "a real threat to our identity, to our nation".

Some observers see parallels with the party's 2015 campaign, when it deployed anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Read more: LGBT rights in Europe: Some countries 'moving backwards on equality for first time in a decade'

The party, which has a staunchly Catholic base, has also tried to roll back on women’s rights. In 2016 legislators introduced a bill which would ban abortion in all circumstances even in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life was in danger but were forced to back down following protests.

PiS took power in 2015 and remains popular thanks to generous welfare payouts, low unemployment and its nationalist rhetoric.

A newspaper supporting PiS was criticised in recent days by the U.S. and British embassies for its plan to put an "LGBT-free zone" sticker on one of its editions.

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