Polish gay pride marchers under police guard (Roundup)
Jun 7, 2008, 16:44 GMT
Warsaw - Hundreds marched in the Polish capital's annual gay rights parade Saturday amid heavy a police presence and counter- protests by right-wing nationalist groups.
Some 2,000 gays, lesbians and supporters set off from a downtown square in the Warsaw Pride parade, waving rainbow-coloured gay pride and European Union flags. They were led by several trucks blasting techno music, filled with dancers and women wearing Las Vegas-style feathered headpieces.
Counter-protesters from the All-Polish Youth and National Radical Camp gathered at another end of Bank Square, separated by a line of police officers.
They shouted slogans like, 'God, Honour, Nation,' and yelled at the marchers to 'go get medicated' to the tune of 'Guantanamera.' Many raised their middle fingers as the demonstrators set off on their route.
The parade is 'so we can show we can normally walk down the street and not be afraid,' said Grzegorz Czarnecki of the Campaign Against Homophobia.
Marchers wove through Warsaw's main streets to end the parade in front of prime minister's office. The counter-protesters didn't follow, and police had set up guard at metro stations along the parade's route.
Lucian Golz of Warsaw watched the parade from the sidelines, and said he'd never allow it if he were in power.
'I was brought up traditionally. I'm for normalcy, and for me this isn't natural,' he said. 'I don't want to upset anyone, because we must be tolerant, but I can only laugh ... this is simply showing off.'
Homosexuality remains a touchy subject in largely conservative, Roman Catholic Poland. The parade, now in its seventh year, was banned in two previous years by the city's mayor.
Czarnecki marched with the demonstrators and gave out gay pride flags to onlookers. He said that while Poland is becoming more tolerant, there is still plenty of discrimination and no marriage rights for gays.
'You can't be open in public ... because there's potential for physical danger, but mostly it's everyday disapproval,' Czarnecki said.© Deutsche Presse-Agentur