This week, Poland experienced a continuation of its largest protests since the fall of Soviet rule. The mass protests were triggered by an October 22 decision by the new Polish Constitutional Tribunal to effectively ban all forms of abortion, including cases of fetal defects. Tens of thousands of protestors have stormed the city of Warsaw, Poland, blocking streets and charging churches, which are now blocked by right-wing and anti-abortion groups, threatening a physical clash between the ideologies. According to The New York Times, the movement has adopted the symbol of the red lightning bolt, which many female protestors have sported through their clothes, makeup and signs. The movement is in response to the ban on abortion, but it has expanded to be a direct challenge to what many argue is an increasingly autocratic “law and justice” party, with the council of demonstration organizers demanding the resignation of the government along with a reversal of the abortion ban.
The protests, despite consisting of as many as 430,000 people at 400 demonstrations the week after the ban was announced, have been relatively peaceful. The demonstrations have employed creative tactics, such as loudly playing “Star Wars” music to poke at the government’s controlling and autocratic tendencies by comparing them to the Empire in the fictional movie series. However, the presence of counter-protests hold potential for violence, and the police presence at the protests is high. According to The New York Times, a leader of a right-wing group noted that thousands of nationalists “trained in combat tactics” are attending the protests.
The deputy prime minister, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, responded to the protests by claiming they were an attempt to “destroy” Poland and encouraging people to defend both the nation and the Catholic Church, according to BBC. Despite a Gazeta Wyborcza poll’s finding that 59% of people disagreed with the abortion ban, the ruling party order said the decision cannot be reversed.