Polish leader slams support for protests

Alan Charlish
·2-min read

Poland's ruling party leader has accused opposition MPs of having "blood on their hands" for supporting protests blamed for helping spread COVID-19

The criticism was levelled by Law and Justice (PiS) party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski on Wednesday as police in Warsaw kept demonstrators against an abortion ruling away from parliament.

Protesters had planned to blockade the legislature as part of protests against a top court ruling that amounted to a near-total ban on abortion.

"All the demonstrations you supported have cost the lives of many people - you have blood on your hands," Kaczynski told opposition MPs.

PiS have blamed the protests for spreading COVID-19.

Police kept protesters away from the building and local media reported scuffles broke out in the city centre.

A left-wing MP said deputy speaker Wlodzimierz Czarzasty, a member of their party, was beaten by police.

Television footage showed a line of riot police blocking the route of protesters.

"Due to the aggression directed against police officers, direct coercion measures were used in the form of gas," police said on Twitter.

The police also said officers had been sent to investigate the police intervention concerning Czarzasty.

Earlier footage from private broadcaster TVN 24 showed protesters playing drums and dancing in the street, while others carried placards with slogans including "Women's Hell".

While centred on abortion, the protests have seen a broader outpouring of anger at Poland's nationalist rulers and their allies in the Catholic church, the latest manifestation of a battle between liberals and religious conservatives that this time touches on the government's response to COVID-19.

Pictures on social media showed large numbers of police vans outside parliament before the protest started.

"The fact there are so many police officers ... shows that PiS are afraid of women," left-wing MP Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus said.

The protests took place as Polish MPs met in the parliament to discuss issues such as the country's veto of the European Union's budget and a post-COVID recovery package.