On Saturday, May 13th, 2017 the 7th annual Equality March rallied through the streets of Krakow calling for rights and recognition for individuals of gay, lesbian and non-heteronormative sexual orientations. After gathering at the square in front of the National Museum, the demonstration weaved along the Wisła and later through the city center. The organizers of the event estimated that 2,500 individuals participated in the action. Despite the overcast skies and light drizzle, the mood was festive and spirits were high. A massive 50m rainbow flag, the visual symbol of the march, was carried by a multitude of hands at the front then followed by a mobile
Despite the overcast skies and light drizzle, the mood was festive and spirits were high. A massive 50m rainbow flag, the visual symbol of the march, was carried by a multitude of hands at the front then followed by a mobile sound-system provided by local club Szpitalna 1 that blasted upbeat dance music. A long procession of diverse individuals followed and a troupe of drummers wrapped up the tail-end of the march. A significant police presence, dressed in full riot gear, walked alongside.
The manifesto of the Equality March was not such much a demand upon the wider society but instead a rallying call aimed at the internal audience of the march. It compelled participants to assert political strength and find the courage needed in the struggle and fight for equal rights.
Niech wróci nasz gniew! Niech wróci nasze zaangażowanie! Niech wróci nasza siła! Przestańmy się bać! Przestańmy się wstydzić!
Let our anger return! Let our engagement return! Let our strength return! Let us stop being scared! Let us stop being embarrassed!
In cities further West, similar pride events are largely festive, celebratory and even commercialized with wide social acceptance and legal victories. In cities further East, similar manifestations simply do not occur or often end in physical altercations. The situation in Krakow remains in the middle-
The fact that the Equality March went up Grodzka Street, the main tourist thoroughfare and the historic ‘Royal Route’ for the coronation of Polish kings had powerful symbolic value that demonstrated the increasing visibility of this community in the city. Bystanders looked on with curiosity- However, the Equality March produced a counter-demonstration, which although small was well organized with effective photo-ops and equipment that multiplied their voice and received wide coverage in local media.
A climactic moment occurred when the Equality March entered the Main Square where the counter-demonstrators were located. The police needed to create a physical barrier between the two demonstrations. On one side was a diverse group of individuals marching for love, tolerance, acceptance, freedom, self-expression and legal rights. On the other side were primarily aggressive, militant young men. It was a unique position for the police, who as representatives of the Polish state, were protecting young gays and lesbians. It is not difficult to image what would have happened in their absence. As the Equality March moved past, Szpitalna 1’s loudspeakers released a wave of blaring techno, that at least for a moment, drowned out the hate.
In the end, the Equality March concluded as planned, returning to the National Museum without incident, showing the growing capacity of this community to organize and mobilize. The entire experience produced a feeling of accomplishment and a moral boost among the participants. However, the last word from the organizer’s was a warning for people to leave the location in large groups and be vigilant due to safety concerns-