Polish police keep protesters against abortion ruling away from parliament

People take part in a protest of the National Women's Strike against the tightening of the abortion law in Warsaw, Poland, 18 November 2020. [Radek Pietruszka/EPA/EFE]

Poles who planned to blockade parliament to protest against a judicial ruling that amounted to a near-total ban on abortion were kept away from the building by police on Wednesday (18 November), and dispersed around the city centre.

The ruling by a top court had previously brought thousands onto the streets of cities across the country in protests that turned into an outpouring of anger at five years of nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) rule and the Roman Catholic church.

Pictures on social media showed large numbers of police vans outside parliament before the protest was due to start.

“The fact that there are so many police officers… shows that PiS are afraid of women,” left-wing lawmaker Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus told Reuters by telephone.

Spokesmen for the Warsaw police and PiS could not immediately be reached for comment.

PiS have blamed the protesters for spreading COVID-19.

“All the demonstrations you supported have cost the lives of many people — you have blood on your hands,” PiS party leader Jarosław Kaczyński told opposition lawmakers in the parliament.

Footage from private broadcaster TVN 24 showed protesters playing drums and dancing on the street, while others carried placards with slogans including “Womens’ Hell”.

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

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