LGBT+ campaigners have warned that the “right to protest is being curtailed” after police threats forced the cancellation of two protests in London.
Activists had planned to protest over the right wing Polish government’s attacks on LGBT+ people’s rights. The march from the South Bank to Parliament Square had been organised by Polish Rainbow in UK, Slav 4 U and the FARSA Feminists Artywists Society in Action.
They planned to join up with a protest organised by the Trans Rights Collective UK—which has also been cancelled after police threats.
Police said organisers would be fined £10,000 and people at gatherings of more than 30 people would face arrest under new rules rushed through last week.
Jarek Kubiak from Polish Rainbow in UK says the police threats came when a co-organiser of the protest “received a phone call exactly 24 hours before our event”.
“Yet even yesterday we received a phone call from one of the police liaison officers saying we would be fine to protest,” he told Socialist Worker.
“We have organised almost weekly protests outside the Polish embassy recently, with 150 to 200 people and the police haven’t had a problem.”
He added, “We are very angry and sad—lots of our hard work and preparation has gone down the drain.”
A statement from organisers said they had called off the protest because “we cannot risk people being arrested and fined, especially given the high risk to marginalised groups when encountered by the police”.
These rules, and how they are used by the police, is a direct threat to the right to demonstrate and protest.
It’s not about a health threat because it comes at a time when ministers, bosses and the right wing press are urging an unsafe return to work.
States across the world have used the coronavirus crisis to grab more powers.
Jarek said, “We had in the back of our mind that governments in more authoritarian countries would use those measures to curtail the right to protest.
“But we never thought that those of us protesting in London at the behaviour of the Polish government would be faced by the same behaviour.
“There is a bitter irony as in Poland a few weeks ago police arrested around 50 LGBT+ people and allies.
“The British government is using the same measures here.”
Jarek slammed the “power grab” under the guise of coronavirus and urged all groups facing threats to unite, saying, “We should all protest against those measures."