Protests in poland: freedom, equality and democracy!

Tens of thousands are taking to the streets again this weekend against the national populist PiS government. Doctors and teachers are also marching.

Protesting makes you tired: A short breather on Saturday in Warsaw Photo: dpa

Poland’s national populist ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) is becoming increasingly nervous. For the street protests, demonstrations and strikes are not abating, as PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski had hoped. "More wages," demanded nearly 8,000 young doctors, nurses and paramedics over the weekend. "No to chaos in schools," thousands of parents and teachers protested against the abolition of middle schools.

Young women dressed in black chanted "Let’s save women!" and waved wire coat hangers in protest against the total ban on abortion that Poland’s parliament adopted in its first reading. A total of up to 40,000 people again took part in protests against the PiS government over the weekend.

The Committee for Defense (KOD) has long since risen to become the most important extra-parliamentary protest movement. On Saturday, the march will start again in front of the Constitutional Court.

In the past, government politicians and their supporters had defamed the opposition here as "communists and criminals," as "pests of the people" or even "pigs mourning after their troughs." On Saturday, the KOD demonstrators in front of the Constitutional Court call on all Poles not to allow themselves to be divided any further: "We are one people!" they chant. "Let’s defend the constitution!"

"Freedom, equality, democracy"

From a small podium, 48-year-old computer scientist and KOD founder Mateusz Kijowski explains, "We can disagree. That’s normal. Without pluralism there is no democracy and no civil society. But we should not let ourselves be divided and then fight each other like enemies!" The audience chants "Freedom, equality, democracy," waves EU flags and rhymes "Polska w Unii, jestesmy z tego dumni" – "Poland in the EU, we are proud of it!"

Kijowski waits a moment for the crowd to pause: "We reject hate speech as well as the claim that only "real Poles" have a right to celebrate historical holidays in Poland." More and more people join the demonstration. Many carry the white and red national flag of Poland, the EU flag or even white flags with the lettering of the Committee for the Defense of Democracy with place names – "Bialystok," "Gdansk," "Opole," "Krakow," "Zielona Gora."

Protest slogans

"We are one people! No divisions! Let’s defend the Constitution!"

Prominent freedom fighters from the Solidarność period of the 1980s have also joined KOD. Among them is the editor-in-chief of the left-liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza, Adam Michnik. He served many years in prison during the People’s Republic period.

Michnik warned the PiS government against further violations of the constitution. He said the KOD does not want to overthrow the government, but to ensure that democratically elected PiS politicians "respect the law and the constitution." "If the government continues to break the law and isolate Poland internationally, it must be voted out in the next democratic elections."

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