Polish DJ, activist and Oramics and Ciężki Brokat member Avtomat was arrested with fellow protestors in Warsaw last week, after protesting the detention of Stop Bzdurom activist Margot.
Margot was originally detained for fighting against an illegal army of trucks hired by anti-abortion groups to target LGBTQ groups in major Polish towns and cities. Margot sprayed paint on a van before being beaten up and subsequentially arrested.
Following her initial release she took a series of photos with Warsaw monuments holding a rainbow flag which resulted in major backlash from the right wing. After the police refused to let her give herself up voluntarily, they used force instead, leading to a group of protestors blocking the path of the police car, one of which was Avtomat, a leading voice in Warsaw's club scene, who has been promoting queer parties since the early 2000s.
The peaceful protest group were attacked by the police without warning, and members were randomly picked from the crowd and arrested, particularly those with colourful clothing. Following the arrest, the protestors were driven to unknown locations without being given a reason nor a legal basis. Opposition party members and lawyers arrived after locating the arrested. The most recent update is that some of the protestors have now been released but may face charges against them.
Across the weekend Polish protestors have been taking to the streets in solidarity with activists.
Following his release on Saturday, we spoke to Avtomat about the experience and how people can help to support protestors and LGBTQIA+ groups from overseas.
What were your experiences of being detained by the police?
I’m sure it’s always a frightening experience, but I tried to keep my wits about me. The arrest itself wasn’t too rough, but a lot of scare tactics were used by the policemen. The evening arrests were definitely a political show of power, aimed at achieving a freezing effect on the protests. They’re saying “don’t join the public unrest, because we’ll fuck you up even if you’re just an innocent bystander”. Two young guys I was in transport with were only there, because they were in awe of such an important symbol as a rainbow flag being displayed in an official public space (on the monument of Nicholas Copernicus) and were taking selfies with it (which speaks volumes about how underrepresented we feel as a community).
The police first made me sign a document saying that I was made aware of my rights and then they refused to let me exercise them (I wasn’t allowed to call my lawyer). I was transported to two different stations before they brought me to the detention centre and while I was there my family and a couple of Polish MPs searching for me were lied to, that I wasn’t there.
As a whole I feel this was a very important experience for me and not all of it was negative - I got flooded with support and many kind words from allies, both friends and strangers. I feel stronger and more determined to continue the fight.
What is your message for the government?
My message to the government is simple and hasn’t changed - you’ve been using us as a political tool and a boogeyman for the masses in cold blood, knowing full well that it will end in violence and hatred towards us. But we’re not going anywhere. We’re here to stay, if you like it or not and we’ll keep opposing your lies, violence, incompetence and cowardice. When you force us to kneel you’re exposing your most delicate areas and our teeth have been sharp for a while now.
How can people abroad help to spread awareness and stand in solidarity with LGBTQIA+ activists?
Please spread the word and educate yourselves on what’s happening here. The whole world is being taken over by extreme right-wing forces, you might find yourselves in a similar situation soon enough - learn from our tribulations and don’t get too comfortable. The worst is still coming.
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