Pride marches from Poland to Germany in show of LGBT+ solidarity

Pride marches from Poland to Germany in show of LGBT+ solidarity
The march from Słubice in Poland to Frankfurt an der Oder in Germany.

Around 2,000 demonstrators have marched from Poland to Germany in a show of solidarity for Polish LGBT+ people’s rights.

The march linked the Polish border city of Słubice and its German neighbor of Frankfurt an der Oder. The two cities are barely 100 meters apart but are sharply divided when it comes to LGBT+ rights.

Riot police lined the streets at the start of the march, through fear far-right Polish groups would attack the Pride.

However the colorful procession, led by drag queens, made its way over the steel bridge over the River Oder which marks the border between the two countries.

Meanwhile there were only around 30 or 40 Polish counter-protestors who held banners and sang hymns. They also had a car, daubed with signs claiming LGBT+ people are pedophiles.

Protestor carries banner saying 'To Poland with Love'.
Marchers said you can best tackle hatred with visibility and love. Twitter

By contrast, the LGBT+ organizers were delighted. So many turned up for the first-of-its-kind event that they had to divide the attendees into two groups.

And far from being fearful, eyewitnesses remarked on a carnival atmosphere. Protestors brought their children, their dogs, their high-heels, their music and, of course, their rainbow flags.

As Mewa Topolska, one of the organizers said (translated):

‘Frankfurt and Słubice should be safe for everyone and take a stand against discrimination and queer hostility.’

Indeed, even on the Polish side of the Oder, some agreed. While the atmosphere may have been more welcoming in Frankfurt, some Słubicers also smiled and waved at the colorful Pride parade.

EU rainbow flag at the march.
Only a river and permeable EU border divide Słubice and Frankfurt. Twitter

Protesting ‘LGBT Free Zones’

In particular, marchers asked for the twin cities to take a stand against the ‘LGBT Free Zones’ that have sprung up around Poland in the last two years. Around a third of Poland has declared itself ‘LGBT+ free’.

The level of hate in Poland has been on the rise since early in 2019. Indeed, LGBT+ rights became a major battleground in the recent presidential election.

The victory in that election of anti-LGBT+ incumbent President Andrzej Duda has left many to fear there is no hope. Campaigners expect further anti-LGBT+ measures to come before Poland’s parliament in the coming months.

As a result, many Polish LGBT+ people are now desperate to leave or have already fled the country.

Meanwhile, others are continuing to demand rights and respect. This summer has seen a dramatic increase in protests and public anger – on both sides.

‘You can only meet hate with love’

Marcher carries banner calling for solidarity with LGBT+ people in Poland.
The main purpose of the Pride was to show solidarity with LGBT+ Polish people. Twitter

However, the atmosphere in Słubice and Frankfurt focused on love, not anger.

Sister Dominique, an LGBT+ nun from Potsdam who joined the Pride, told ‘You can only meet hate with love. Life is so colorful, diverse, so beautiful.’

And Helga Schulz, 81, who watched the parade, said that everyone should live as they want. ‘What’s wrong with that?’ she added.

Marchers in the Słubice and Frankfurt Pride.
The march was so big that it had to split into two groups. Twitter

Meanwhile Topolska, who lives in Słubice, told Thomson Reuters Foundation:

‘The only way we can change people’s opinions is through visibility. We don’t have full queer rights in Poland – and won’t for a long time so the main [aim of the march] is [German] solidarity with the Polish side.’

Likewise Ed Lada, a 64-year-old US military veteran who came to support his LGBT+ friends was realistic but positive.

‘There’s far more tolerance in Germany than in Poland. I don’t think too many minds will be changed. But even if it’s one or two, that’s a change.’

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Published on GayStarNews Read the original article

Author: Tris Reid-Smith