Equality March moves through Białystok streets amid controversies

The Equality March, held in support of universal equal rights, took place in the northeastern city of Białystok for the first time, as several counter-demonstrations were held concurrently all over the city centre.

Under the slogan “Białystok - a City For Everyone,” participants on the march carried rainbow flags and banners with slogans promoting the freedom of love and the equality of sexes.

The organisers of the assembly stressed that the March was not supposed to fight with anybody and was not directed against any religion, but to ensure equal rights for everybody, regardless of their gender and sexual orientation.

According to the municipal police, who escorted the March, around 800 people took part in it, while the initial reports spoke of around 300.

Meanwhile, several other registered demonstrations took place concurrently or shortly before the Equality March.

An alternative to Equality March

The “Family Picnic”, organised by the local Marshal’s Office, was supposed to be an alternative to the Equality March, and it gathered a few hundred people who came there to enjoy their time together with their families. Just before the Equality March was inaugurated, an anti-LGBT manifestation marched through Białystok city centre. Its participants carried banners with traditional family supporting slogans.

“I have no doubts regarding what comprises a family, but I respect all the minorities. The thing is, in my opinion, there’s no sense to flaunt it in such a manner. The Equality March arises controversies and it awakens unnecessary emotions,” said Artur Kosicki, the Marshal of Podlaskie province, who also pointed out that the province had no problems with tolerance.

“We have shown plenty of times that we are a tolerant religion. Among us, there are Catholics, the believers of the Orthodox Church, Tatars…”, he said.

Football fans’ countrywide assembly

On the eve of the Equality March, supporters of several football teams from all over Poland arrived in the city centre on the initiative of the fans of the local football club Jagiellonia. Officially, the gathering was aimed at signing a truce between all the fans on the territory of the Podlaskie province on June 20-21, since, on a daily basis, there are animosities between most of the supporters’ groups in Poland. The true reason, most likely, was to try to block the route of the Equality March and to manifest their disapproval towards promoting LGBT+ ideas in Białystok.

Having said that, at least 600-700 supporters of not only Jagiellonia, but also such clubs as Motor Lublin, Śląsk Wrocław and Ruch Chorzów, appeared in Białystok to firmly oppose the LGBT+ lobby. They were accompanied by people from right-wing circles. The first incidents took place before the March started, with some verbal clashes. The police, reinforced with additional units from all over the province, had their hands full for the afternoon. As it kept advancing, bottles and stones were thrown at its participants. The police used gas on the protesters and detained a dozen or so people, who acted in a particularly aggressive way. Due to numerous attempts to block the manifestation, its route was changed several times on an ongoing basis.

In the end, the March was forced to move to the place where it started, and was concluded by its organiser. According to “Rising Białystok”, the official Twitter profile of the city, a total of 5,000 people came onto the streets of Białystok, with around one fifth of them being participants on the Equality March.