Polish far-right "flash mobs" scare liberal thinkers

Tue Apr 30, 2013 6:54am EDT
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By Marcin Goettig

WARSAW (Reuters) - Magdalena Sroda, a Polish feminist and academic, was about to deliver a lecture at Warsaw university on "Morality in public life," when around 50 young men wearing balaclavas and plastic animal masks shoved their way into the building.

Security guards pushed them from the auditorium and they moved to an adjacent hall, waving fists and shouting a chant from the soccer terraces that compares opponents with Poland's widely despised former Soviet overlords:

"Hit the red trash with a hammer, with a sickle!".

They soon dispersed and the lecture went ahead, but the audience, which included professors and two university deans, was shaken, Sroda told Reuters, recalling the incident in February, one of a growing number since late last year.

"We are dealing with a new political movement that has decided to use barbarity against democracy," she said.

The invasion by "flash mobs" of liberal lectures and conferences marks a new battleground in a years-long struggle between Poles seeking to embrace liberal, western European values and those who say phenomena like feminism and gay partnerships are a corruption of traditional Polish values.

The masked gangs are loosely affiliated to far-right groups and have targeted, among others, the editor of a major newspaper, the first openly gay member of parliament and a student society planning to debate same sex couples.

They coincide with a rise of the far-right in countries across Europe as recession bites. Hungary's far-right Jobbik party is now third biggest in parliament, while in Greece, the far-right Golden Dawn won 7 percent of votes last year.   Continued...

A demonstrator holds flares up as he taunts the riot police as violence breaks out at a parade celebrating Poland's national holiday in Warsaw in this November 11, 2012 file photograph. REUTERS/Peter Andrews/Files