On October 24, 2019, we received wonderful news from Poland in the case of 14 brave human rights defenders who stood up to fascism with their banner “Fascism stop!” during the Independence Day march in 2017. A Polish court declared that the women, who had been charged with “interference with a lawful assembly”, were not guilty.
During the annual Independence Day march in Warsaw in 2017, when many far-right protestors gathered calling for things like a “white Poland”, the 14 women refused to let it go unchallenged. They headed to the Poniatowski Bridge to peacefully confront the hatred.
What they encountered there was deeply disturbing. Hundreds of people brandishing racist and fascist symbols, messages saying things like “Europe will be white or deserted”, and members of far-right groups and their sympathizers holding flares and throwing firecrackers. Undeterred by the aggression in the air, the women unfurled their own banner saying “Fascism stop!”.
Moments later, the women came under attack. Several of the far-right protestors were caught on camera kicking, hitting, spitting and verbally abusing the women.
Afterwards, despite footage documenting the violence, the authorities decided to close the investigation into the attacks on the women. Adding insult to injury, the authorities instead charged 13 of the women with obstructing a lawful assembly.
The women appealed the decision of the Prosecutor not to investigate the attacks against them, and on February 13, 2019, a judge ordered that the investigation should be re-opened. This sent a positive message that violence won’t simply be tolerated or excused.