INTERVIEW-LGBT+ activist behind 'Polish Stonewall' not afraid to die

Sept 3- The LGBT+ activist whose arrest sparked protests that were dubbed the “Polish Stonewall” says she is not afraid to resume her hunger strike and die if that turns the tide against homophobia in Poland. “Every day… are making death threats against LGBT people in Poland,” Szutowicz said in a Skype interview after being released from pre-trial detention by a judge…

(Att eds to language in para 8)

By Rachel Savage

Sept 3 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The LGBT+ activistwhose arrest sparked protests that were dubbed the “PolishStonewall” says she is not afraid to resume her hunger strikeand die if that turns the tide against homophobia in Poland.

“Dying from hunger is not the worst option when people arethreatening you to be beaten to death,” Margot Szutowicz said,alternating between English and speaking through a translator.

The 25-year-old refused food for two weeks last month, thencalled off her hunger strike as she could not get word out ofthe Polish prison about her protest.

Szutowicz’s detention on Aug 7 – relating to damage to ananti-LGBT+ campaigner’s van – sparked huge demonstrations, with48 arrested as they tried to stop Warsaw police taking her away.

The following day, several thousand people marched inPoland’s capital, as the incident widened a sharp divide betweensupporters and opponents of the nationalist ruling Law andJustice party (PiS) over LGBT+ rights.

“Every day … (people) are making death threats againstLGBT people in Poland,” Szutowicz said in a Skype interviewafter being released from pre-trial detention by a judge on Aug28, having initially been jailed for two months.

The Warsaw prosecutor’s office, the Government InformationOffice and the Ministry of Justice did not respond to requestsfor comment.

Szutowicz – a member of Stop Bzdurom (“Stop the Bullshit”,an anarchist, anti-homophobia group) – said she wants to changeopinion about LGBT+ people in her socially conservative country,but has no desire to become a martyr.

“Everyone wants to talk with her, everyone sees her as amartyr, but the truth is that … she just wants to have timefor herself and for her friends,” said Andrzej Kwiatkowski, afellow member of Stop Bzdurom, who translated for her.

“She doesn’t want to focus all the LGBT people problems inPoland only on herself, because there are many people that havea worse situation than herself.”

He said Szutowicz, who identifies as non-binary – neithermale nor female, was “not afraid to die now”.

DEFENDING DIGNITY

LGBT+ rights are increasingly contested in Poland, with PiSpoliticians and Catholic bishops denouncing them as a foreign”ideology” that threatens traditional social values.

Poland is the worst place to be LGBT+ in the European Union,according to ILGA-Europe, a regional advocacy group. Same-sexcouples cannot enter into civil partnerships or adopt childrenand there is no specific law against homophobic hate crime.

President Andrzej Duda was re-elected for a second term inJuly after an acrimonious campaign in which he proposed aconstitutional ban on same-sex couples adopting children and onschools teaching LGBT+ issues.

Last month Szutowicz and two other activists were arrestedfor “offending religious feelings” and “profaning” monuments,after draping rainbow flags on statues in Warsaw.

Later the same week Szutowicz was re-arrested on separatecharges that she had damaged a van in June that belonged toanti-LGBT+ group Fundacja Pro and attacked its driver.

“The guy from this foundation that was behind the wheeldidn’t get hurt,” said Kwiatkowski, her translator.

He conceded the van’s tyres were slashed and banners on itsside linking LGBT+ people with paedophilia were destroyed – butdid not say by whom.

Szutowicz said she had no clue of when her trial would benor what specific charges she would eventually face.

Her arrest has been called the “Polish Stonewall”, after therioting against police brutality at New York’s Stonewall Inn in1969 that kicked off the U.S. LGBT+ rights movement.

Radicalism, said an unapologetic Szutowicz, wins change.

“Years of vanilla activist movement does not help us atall.” said Szutowicz. “We cannot think all the time what fascistgroups think about us.”

($1 = 0.8452 euros)(Reporting by Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage; Editing by LyndsayGriffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, thecharitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives ofpeople around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly.Visit http://news.trust.org)

ANA NEWS WIRE Disclaimer:
The African News Agency (ANA) is a news wire service and therefore subscribes to the highest standards of journalism as it relates to accuracy, fairness and impartiality.
ANA strives to provide accurate, well sourced and reliable information across Text, Images and Video. Where errors do appear, ANA will seek to correct these timeously and transparently.
The ANA platform also contains news and information from third party sources. ANA has sought to procure reliable content from trusted news sources but cannot be held responsible for the accuracy and opinions provided by such sources on the ANA platform or linked sites.
The content provided for on the ANA News Wire platform, both through the ANA news operation and via its third party sources, are for the sole use of authorised subscribers and partners. Unauthorised access to and usage of ANA content will be subject to legal steps. ANA reserves its rights in this regard.
ANA makes every effort to ensure that the website is up and running smoothly at all times, however ANA does not take responsibility for, and will not be held liable for times when the website is temporarily unavailable due to technical issues that are beyond our control.