women’s protest is not a pilgrimage. This should not impede the movement of drivers

The police demanded 300 PLN from each of them, so, according to the court, the fine of 100 PLN for Women’s Vacation cannot be considered severe. The decision is not final.

The girls were punished for making their march, making it difficult for cars to pass, and for shouting at the participants, including Fuck PiS.

“The issue is not against whom these cries were raised, they are vulgar” (during the trial, the defense claimed that “Fuck PiS” is not vulgar, but a form of situational protest – they are against legal expertise).

The issue concerns women’s protests in Sokołów Podlaski immediately after the decision of the Constitutional Court of Julia Przyłębska, which practically banned abortion in Poland on October 28, 2020.

The protest was organized by very young women (they want them to remain anonymous) – this was the first manifestation of their civic activism. Concerned about the state’s treatment of them, they decided to “strike in Sokolov.” Because not everyone has a car to go to Wegrów, for example.

In the photo above, two organizers of a women’s strike in Sokołów Podlaski are leaving the courtroom.

Police were informed of the protest and agreed that the protest would take place on the sidewalk. The police promised to help, but they ignored the issue – as evidenced by the testimony of police witnesses. Several hundred, maybe a thousand people came to the action. There were not enough police. Suddenly, the crowd did not fit on the sidewalk. The column closed a strip, and people shouted insulting slogans against the government: “Get out” and “Pis-i sik.”

The people were angry, but as a result, nothing dangerous happened. Several boys signed to light a torch – and so on. Organizers and police thanked each other and left.

The call for work came only a year later. At that time, all over Poland, police began cracking down on organizers of women’s protests.

Sokolov Podlaski’s court ruled after hearing the accused and witnesses – the police. And after four hearings.

The judge announces the verdict
The verdict is handed down in Sokołów Podlaski, 23/05/2022. A police representative was not present as the parties did not need to appear. The accused sits on the right side of the accused, outside the frame. Photo by Agnieszka Jędrzejczyk

The case of the fiery boys left no doubt – they confessed and were willing to pay even 200 zlotys voluntarily. The organizers of the protest were different. They told the court that they did not shout vulgar slogans (they prepared others, but the crowd preferred to shout “Fuck PiS”), did not start the parade, and even tried to bring people back to the sidewalk.

The fact is that during the interrogation of the police, two of them pleaded guilty to the police. Only before the trial did they say otherwise. One initially claimed that the police allegations were untrue.

Defense lawyer Pavel Schroeder: They were 17 years old and had no lawyers.

One of the girls: I signed it because it didn’t look like acceptance. Somehow, the police said otherwise.

However, the court found that the police statements were important to assess the course of events.

You should not make life difficult for drivers

While substantiating the verdict, the court focused on the closure of most roads. He noted that the rules not only prevent obstacles, but also slow down traffic, and lead to a situation where drivers have to pay more attention to driving.

You can leave, as the court said, during various events, such as sports or demonstrations, but only after obtaining the appropriate permission. Pilgrimages, marches and other religious ceremonies are free to address them. Women’s holiday is not one of them. Thus, the organizers violated the rules. Traffic was blocked on the main road in this city.

After the sentence, a girl: So I have to take the cross next time, right?

As for the scandal caused by the ugly shouts, the court stressed that it is not about what the accused objected to, but about the essence of the matter. And this is swearing.

Excessive behavior outside the accepted norms in a certain place contradicts the normal norms of human coexistence.

According to the court, the call “PiS siksin” is not the norm adopted by Sokolov, and therefore the accused violated the provisions of the Code of Minor Crimes. The court ignored the girls’ statements that the screamers were not them. He referred to the statements of police officers who were “with the accused and had no grounds to impose a false burden on the accused.”

Meanwhile, data collected by OKO.press as part of the “Targeting” project show that the police blamed the wives of people they already knew during the strike. Either because of public activism, or because these people left their information to the police in protest. They knew that the police attributed the behavior of other people to these people.

Description of those convicted after the sentence: Yes? When the Sokołów days were over this weekend, the police caught everyone entering the road? no After all, people here just go when something happens. They always came in.

Even constitutional freedom of driving is subject to restrictions

The court referred to the Constitution: it recognized that freedom of assembly and expression were protected by it. However, he noted that the same applies to freedom of movement. However, we agree that you may be fined for exceeding the speed limit. It is the same here – he explained in the oral justification of the verdict.

Both violations were developed in conjunction with the use of words that complicate the lives of drivers and contradict the norms of ordinary sexual intercourse, and were valued at 100 PLN.

Lack of a face mask is not a crime

At the same time, the court acquitted all those accused of not wearing masks during the protest. The police made the accusation en masse, although until December 2020, there were no rules in Poland that allowed punishment for it. In the first and second waves of the pandemic, the government issued “mask” orders under the 2008 Human Infectious Diseases Act, forcing patients and people suspected of being infected to wear masks. But not healthy people. The hole in the rules was repaired only after the protests in Sokolov.

The court found that the sentence was appropriate and adapted to the living conditions of the accused – many young people. And “in terms of general and individual prevention” will be effective. Court costs will be covered by the state treasury.

We described Sokołów’s work as part of our Targeting project. This is a pilot project of OKO.press, the Osiatyński Archive, and we are documenting the state’s pressure on civil society, its activists and activists. We were able to identify the features we call SLAPP in Polish. The SLAPP (Strategic Claim Against Public Participation) is a lawsuit filed by businesses or authorities against activists or journalists to prevent people from engaging in public activities. Usually, litigation costs a lot of money and legal procedures are long and expensive. This practice is developing all over Europe. Its Polish peculiarity is that the state persecutes activists under the provisions of the Code of Minor Crimes. Punishments are not harsh, but procedures involving public services (prosecutors and police) are tedious and discouraging.

In 2021, our project was supported by the Norwegian Rafto Foundation (Torolf Rafto was a Norwegian human rights activist who dedicated his life to Central Europe). We are now supported by the American-German Marshall Fund.

Coordination – Anna Wójcik, Piotr Pacewicz, Agnieszka Jędrzejczyk

Agnieszka Jędrzejczyk
Agnieszka Jędrzejczyk

Historian by education. From 1989 to 2011 he was a parliamentary correspondent, then editor of the Gazette Wyborcza, until December 2015 – in the government administration (drafting a new act on the collection of public funds and in a short time – changing the rules of public consultation) teams). ). In the Office of Human Rights Defender until July 2021.

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