“This is war” (daily newspaper Junge Welt)

Jakub Porzycki / Agencja Gazeta via REUTERS

Women are storming the Constitutional Court’s verdict. Here is a demonstrator in Kraków on Sunday

Since Thursday’s ruling on the extensive ban on abortions, Poland has seen a wave of protest demonstrations. On Friday and Saturday tens of thousands of mostly young women – and also many men – marched through downtown Warsaw. There were large demonstrations in many other cities as well, and groups of black-clad people gathered to protest even in small towns. Immediately after the verdict was pronounced, there was a spontaneous rally in front of the home of PiS boss Jaroslaw Kaczynski, which was cordoned off by strong police forces. It only ended after midnight, with clashes between demonstrators and police officers and the arrest of 18 participants.

In contrast to the first evening of protest, the police largely let the demonstrators go on Friday and Saturday. Sometimes – as in Warsaw – the demonstrators marched through the city in a pandemic-friendly marching order into the government district, elsewhere, such as in Katowice on Saturday, nothing could be seen from a distance. According to an online report by the left-liberal magazine, honking their horns in Warsaw Policy Drivers to the rhythm of the slogans to show their solidarity, others spontaneously joined them. “I have an eight-year-old daughter, I don’t want her to have to live in a country like this,” the organizers of the women’s strike group quoted on their Facebook page as a taxi driver from Warsaw who left his car spontaneously and joined the demonstration. Also passed around are pictures of an old woman who applauded the demonstrators from her balcony in Poznan, or of a policewoman who also applauded on the sidelines of the demonstration in Wroclaw.

These may have been isolated cases, but they once again confirm the mobilization capacity of a “body issue” such as the possibility of a legal abortion. Despite the peacefulness of the demonstrations, the mood was extremely angry. “This is war” was a slogan that was often heard. Marta Lempart, head of the »Women’s Strike«, called Kaczynski a »rat« in Warsaw. In Gdynia, people in the fan crowd of the local football club even took part in the rally in front of the office of two well-known PiS members; the fact that they were about to kick in the door certainly raises the question of whether they were perhaps provocateurs. In addition, activists disrupted Catholic services on Sunday: they scattered leaflets in Poznan Cathedral and clapped continuously during the sermon. In Warsaw a woman stood between the congregation and the priest with the poster “Let us pray for the right to abortion”. Elsewhere, church walls were “decorated” with current graffiti.

The left-wing social scientist Maciej Gdula, author of one of the first studies on the basis of the success of the PiS, said on the sidelines of the demonstration in Warsaw that an important change was taking place in people’s minds: They no longer accepted the so-called abortion compromise passed in 1993, the replaced the deadline solution of the VR Poland. Now the other side has completely abandoned this compromise, said Gdula, who also sits in the Sejm for the Polish left-wing alliance. His group colleague Agnieszka Dziemianowicz-Bak told the television station TVN 24 also, the so-called abortion compromise is dead. Now everyone has to decide where he stands: on the side of women or on the side of their oppressors.

For Sunday (after jW– editorial deadline) further promotions were announced. From Monday the protesting women want to block important crossroads, on Wednesday the »women’s strike« called for all women to stay away from work.