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Saturday, June 11, 2005

A long way to go, #2


Gays, extremists clash

Warsaw - A march by more than 2 000 homosexuals through the Polish capital in defiance of a ban by the mayor degenerated into violence on Saturday as marchers clashed with right-wing extremists.

The clashes, in which at least three people were injured including a policeman and about 10 arrested, occurred towards the end of the gay parade through Warsaw, for which police were out in force, an AFP correspondent at the scene said.

Warsaw's right-wing Mayor Lech Kaczynski had banned the parade on Friday, on the grounds that the application to march had not been correctly filed.

A favourite in the race for president of this devoutly Catholic country in October, Kaczynski had also banned the gay parade last year and has made clear his opposition to homosexuality.

Warsaw police spokesperson Mariusz Sokolowski said more than 2 500 people had attended the parade, and were met by around 300 counter-demonstrators.

Earlier in the day the gays had been pelted with eggs and insulted as "deviants, peadophiles" by around 100 far right youths when they held a demonstration outside the parliament building.

The gays yelled back that the rightwingers were "fascists" and a line of police officers had to step in to separate the two groups. Police also intervened to lift barricades placed along the route of the parade by the extremists.

An estimated two million gays and lesbians live in Poland, making up five percent of the population. But they complain of discrimination at work and open hostility in a society which is more than 90% Catholic.

Carrying rainbow-coloured flags the protesters were joined by a number of politicians including Poland's deputy prime minister, Izabela Jaruga-Nowacka, and two German lawmakers from the Green Party, Claudia Roth and Volker Beck.

The German Greens lawmakers appealed to Poland's national leaders to respect homosexual rights.

Lech Kaczyński is the leader in the race for President. The latest poll

Most Poles favored banning the parade, as Kaczyński had tried to do, but most Varsovians favored allowing it

"Gays are not pedophiles" "Mr. Kaczyński, real men don't fear gays"

"Faggotry ban"


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