Polish police have detained 48 people following scuffles surrounding the temporary arrest of an LGBT rights activist on Friday night in Warsaw.
The scuffles broke out after a court in Warsaw ordered the activist, who is suspected of assaulting the driver of a van from a conservative, pro-life foundation, to be detained for two months pre-trial.
After the court hearing, protesters tried to prevent a police vehicle from taking away the activist. Police said that officers had been attacked and insulted during the scuffles, and that the 48 “most aggressive” protesters had been detained.
However, Adam Bodnar, Poland’s ombudsman, expressed concern at the detentions and said he had begun an investigation into the affair, as the actions of the police “required urgent explanation”.
“In a democratic country ruled by law, all citizens — regardless of any characteristics, such as their sexual orientation or gender identity — should be able to enjoy their rights in full with a sense of security and dignity,” he said.
The clash comes amid mounting tension in Poland between liberals urging greater respect and equal rights for LGBT people, and the conservative-nationalist ruling Law and Justice party, which portrays the LGBT rights movement as a foreign threat to traditional Polish family values.
After images of the detentions emerged on Saturday, several opposition MPs accused the police of overreacting. Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus, from Lewica, the opposition grouping, tweeted a series of pictures of police dragging away protesters, or pinning them to the ground.
“Are these threatening and dangerous people, so that they need to be treated like this? Who gave the order for these rounding-ups? Who do you work for? The citizens, or Law and Justice?” she tweeted.
However, Zbigniew Ziobro, Poland’s justice minister, said the police had acted appropriately, and accused opposition politicians who had supported the protesters of “standing on the side of banditry and hooliganism”.
Over the past year, LGBT rights have become one of the main faultlines in Poland’s political discourse, and President Andrzej Duda, Law and Justice’s ally, used the issue to drum up support from conservative voters during last month’s presidential election campaign.
Mr Duda claimed that “LGBT ideology” was “more destructive” than communism, while one of his staff said on Polish state TV that LGBT people were “not equal to normal people”.
Another Law and Justice MP tweeted a cartoon comparing same-sex marriages to a marriage between a man and a goat.