Poland Vows to End Street ‘Revolution’ as Police Quash Protest
(Bloomberg) -- Poland won’t allow women-led street protests to trigger a “revolution,” a senior government official said, after police cracked down on a demonstration for abortion rights.
Police pepper sprayed demonstrators and cudgeled them with batons late on Wednesday, drawing condemnation from opposition parties. It was an unprecedented show of force after a month of protests against a court ruling that effectively bans abortion.
Police said they were defending themselves against aggressive protesters who were breaking social-distancing rules in an illegal gathering, causing a health hazard. The clashes spilled into parliament, several opposition lawmakers were briefly detained by police and lightly injured in the skirmishes.
“There will be no revolution made by force, against the constitutional organs of the state,” Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski told parliament Thursday. Police were routinely facing “organized groups trained for street fights and linked with ultra-leftist thugs,” he said.
Along with the street protests, the government is struggling to contain the pandemic, with deaths jumping by a record number for a second-straight day on Thursday. As it also faces the worst economic crisis in three decades, the cabinet is threatening to veto the European Union’s virus-relief plan, a move that could strip Poland of tens of billions of euros in EU aid per year.
Support for the nationalist ruling Law & Justice party has tumbled since the start of the protests, especially after the group’s firebrand leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski told patriots to defend Polish churches “at all costs” after some activists disturbed religious services. On Wednesday, he blamed the opposition for backing the protests and warned that politicians may be charged with illegal activities.
“You have blood in your hands. You shouldn’t be in this chamber,” Kaczynski told opposition lawmakers in parliament. “If there’s rule of law in Poland, many of you will be behind bars.”
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