“One ought never to turn one’s back on a threatened danger and to try to run away from it. If you do that you will double the danger. But if you meet it promptly and without flinching, you will reduce the danger by half. Never run away from anything. Never!” The words of Winston Churchill. And while not everybody is as well-equipped as was Churchill to face threats – even those he had sought out – in Poland, at least, there is no need to feel threatened because the government is here to help, six words which President Reagan described as the most frightening in the language.
Polish prime minister, Beata Szydło, speaking after the police released photographs of protesters who had taken part in anti-government rallies, said the the government will not allow people to make betclic pariuri sportive online every day and to feel threatened. “We will not allow anyone to be worried about their trip to school, to the store, or as in the case of December events, to leave parliament, because an angry crowd … wants to disrupt someone’s peace or threaten [them],” she said.
On Wednesday, the interior minister, Mariusz Błaszczak, announced that an inquiry had begun into the protests outside the parliament building in Warsaw, which had started on 16 December when opposition MPs began a sit-in. He also said that police had a listed of some 80 people who had allegedly broken the law while they gathered outside parliament to protest, blocking the deputies’ cars from leaving the building. On the police website were published photographs of 21 people, whom Błaszczak expects to turn themselves in, or to be identified by the public.
Szydło said that those protesters were not the only ones threatening security in Poland. “[Education] minister Anna Zalweska, who went for a meeting about education reform … was also attacked,” she said. Szydło also said that the motorcade of the leader of the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party, Jarosław Kaczyński, who was on his way to visit the grave of his brother in Kraków, was also disrupted by protesters. In this context, publishing images of the protesters aims to increase security, Szydło said.
For the opposition, publishing the photographs online constitutes “political revenge” and “stigmatises” anti-government protesters. Grzegorz Schetyna, leader of the Civic Platform (PO) party, said: “We will not allow, 27 years after Poland recovered independence and sovereignty, for the ruling party to break the law in Poland in such a way.” According to him, the telephones of opposition MPs may have been tapped. The PO caucus leader, Sławomir Neumann, said: “In a free, democratic country, eavesdropping on the opposition or citizens who come to a peaceful protest is unbelievable.” Indeed, Poland’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Adam Bodnar, has questioned the legal basis for releasing the photographs, referring to a statement published on the police website. “The police claim … that the people, whose identities are unknown, violated the order of the law, and not that they are suspected of violating that order,” he said.
Thus, the events of 16th December have given rise to a number of actions. The Warsaw prosecutor is continuing to question protestors who are accused of disorderly conduct. Meanwhile opposition deputy, Michał Szczerba, whose exclusion from the debate by Speaker Marek Kuchciński after he raised the issue of contentious plans to change media access to the parliamentary building, sparked the crisis, has announced he will take the matter of his exclusion to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Warsaw’s District Prosecutor’s office has also begun an investigation into whether there was an “abuse of power, breach of duty and working against the public interest” by public officials when, following the sit-in on 16th December proceedings moved to an ancillary hall and a vote on the budget was passed by a show of hands amidst allegations of opposition deputies having been excluded from taking part.
Of course, order must be kept, but there must also be space for protest in any democracy, above all in Poland, one might have thought, when the Solidarity protests were so influential in bringing about Poland’s emergence from the dark winter of Communism. Breaking the butterfly on the wheel is seldom necessary. There again, one man’s protest is another man’s threat as in the irregular verb: I protest, you are a threat, they are enemies of the state. Be that as it may, perhaps we can do no better than to paraphrase Orwell’s Animal Farm – all the animals on the farm were unthreatened, but some were more unthreatened than others.