The Polish head of presidency beats the opposition amid protests by Reuters


© Reuters. Women’s strike protest in Warsaw


By Alan Charlish

WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland’s ruling party leader accused opposition politicians of “having blood on their hands” to support protests. The government blames the spread of COVID-19 as police kept protesters against an abortion decision out of parliament.

The protesters had planned to block parliament as part of demonstrations against a ruling by the Supreme Court that amounted to an almost complete ban on abortion.

“All the demonstrations that you supported have killed many people – they have blood on their hands,” Law and Justice (PiS) party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski told opposition legislators in parliament.

PiS blamed the protests for the spread of COVID-19.

Police kept protesters away from the building and local media reported that brawls had broken out in the city center. A left lawmaker said deputy spokesman Wlodzimierz Czarzasty, a member of her party, had been beaten by police.

TV footage showed a line of riot police blocking the protesters’ path.

“Due to the aggression against police officers, direct coercive measures in the form of gas were used,” Warsaw police said on Twitter.

Police also said officers had been sent to investigate police intervention regarding Zarzastie.

Earlier footage on private broadcaster TVN 24 showed protesters playing drums and dancing in the street while others carried posters with slogans such as “Women’s Hell”.

While the protests focused on abortion, the protests sparked wider anger against the nationalist rulers of Poland and their allies in the Catholic Church. This is the latest manifestation of a struggle between liberals and religious conservatives that this time touches the government’s response to COVID-19.

Pictures on social media showed large numbers of police cars outside Parliament before the protest was due to begin.

“The fact that there are so many police officers … shows that PiS is afraid of women,” left lawmaker Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus told Reuters over the phone.

A PiS spokeswoman could not be reached immediately for comment.

The protests came as Polish lawmakers met in parliament to discuss issues such as the country’s veto of the European Union budget and a post-COVID recovery package.

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