Riots erupt during Poznan’s Black Monday

Categories Poland
black monday poznan riots 2016

Police used tear gas and batons on people who kept protesting after the Poznań’s pro-choice demonstrations offically ended. Controversial are the exact events of the incident, one of seven reported during the nationwide Black Monday demonstrations — the only so big.

The incident took place after people marched from Mickiewicz Square, where the Black Monday protest had place originally, to St. Marcin Street, where the PiS’s local office is located. A group of men is said to throw bottles, stones and flares on the office’s building, as well as the policemen that protected it. The police then proceeded with tear gas and force. A journalist associated with WTK, local internet TV, was injured.

Several versions of the story have surfaced so far. One is a press conference statement by Jarosław Szymczyk, Polish Chief of Police, which I translated (as reported by TVN24):

A group of over a dozen of people openly attacked the policemen securing Saint Marcin Street. Stones, bottles and fired flares were thrown at the officers by people covered up in balaclavas, hoods and scarfs. Only then and only once did the policemen use the means of direct coercion—tear gas—to prevent a rescue of the people arrested. Those arrested are two men, aged 27 and 44, and a 34-year-old-woman [later confirmed by Rozbrat, Poland’s oldest squat, as its member—ed. Markus]. They are in the police’s records for crimes similar to the one I told you about. This quick and firm decision of the police prevented further escalation of the aggresive behaviour and caused other attackers to run away, and most of all—ensured the safety of others part-taking in the demonstration.

The Police summarised the security of the Black Monday as a whole, referring to Poznań in a similar tone, adding that five policemen needed hospital treatment afterwards. Andrzej Borowiak, Greater Poland’s Police spokesman confirmed the demonstration was otherwise calm.

Rozbrat commented on Tuesday morning on their website confirming they took part in the Black Monday protests and helped with its organisation. Translation mine:

[…]The police arrested people linked to our movement, lest they were on the forefront of the protest, while the officers panicked and beated protestors blindly. The arrests were brutal in nature, and two of the three arrested requested obduction. We don’t know their version of the story, since at the moment they’re still held by the police. Now the police tries to excuse its incompetence in the matter of securing the demonstrations with anarchists’ actions.[…]

Magdalena Malinowska of Anarchistic Federation accused the policemen of being completely unprepared, turning straight into violence — also against the people who were calmly standing there.

Rozbrat published a video of the police beating protestors, with the arrests caught on the camera, titled “Who caused the riots? Anarchists or PiS?”.

However, demonstrators who were on the place said it’s unlikely the attackers, bearing red-black flags, were part of the Black Protest. Once flares came, one told TVN24 they were confused as to who those people were, and “sure none of ours.” Police also was to attack protesting women, not just the rioters — as in the video above, as well as this tweet.

One of the protestors said people backed off because three people in the gate leading to the party’s office threw rocks at the crowd.

The video below shows the exact moment flares were thrown:

Jacek Jaśkowiak, the president of Poznań, asked on Wednesday whether was it needed to have so many policemen during the protests or to bring police dogs, which he said was disproportionate comparing to other cities during that day—and even other events in Poznań. He recalled the police’s lack of response to the amateur martial arts tournament First to Fight back in March, which he said had no permit to operate and “propagated forbidden symbols.” The law bans use of symbols related to authoritarian regimes. He questioned whether the demonstrators, mostly women, were actually such a threat to the people in the office “that the police had to use tear gas, jerk them and had them arrested?”

The three arrested were released later on Tuesday, said Rozbrat, but TVN24 reports they were charged with infringing bodily inviolability of a policeman. One of them told WTK she was arrested “because she was close to the turmoil and dressed in a characteristic way which made her stand out in the crowd.” She quoted the famous words “Give me a man and I will find the crime” by Andrey Vyshinsky to describe her situation. She confirmed the charges.

Local photographer Mateusz Budzisz has covered this protest.

photo: Maciej Targoni/YouTube