Opposition anger after police remove MP from protest against prime minister

Opposition figures have condemned the actions of police who physically removed an MP from a protest outside a meeting being led by the prime minister and took her into a police van.

They note that the law gives MPs immunity from being detained by police and accuse the Law and Justice (PiS) government of using the police against the opposition in a manner similar to Russia or Belarus.

The interior minister, however, has defended the actions of the officers, saying that they were legal and justified. Other government figures have accused the opposition of engineering the incident as part of the campaign for next month’s elections.

Tak @PolskaPolicja traktuje posłankę Sejmu RP @gajewska_kinga na spotkaniu w Otwocku P. #Morawiecki. pic.twitter.com/xpX7mCQYMY

— Krystian Kiełtyka (@kieltyka_k) September 19, 2023

The incident took place yesterday afternoon in the town of Otwock, where Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki was holding a meeting and the opposition Civic Coalition (KO) had set up its own event nearby.

Films published on social media show two male police officers physically removing KO MP Kinga Gajewska from the area and putting her inside a police van. Bystanders can be heard telling the police that Gajewska is an MP.

Shortly after 7 p.m., police issued a statement saying that the officers in Otwock had not been aware that Gajewska was an MP and that as soon as she had presented her parliamentary identity card action against her had been discontinued.

Policjanci, podejmując interwencje w Otwocku, wobec jednej z osób nie mieli świadomości, że mają do czynienia z Panią Poseł. Niezwłocznie po okazaniu legitymacji poselskiej czynności legitymowania zaprzestano.

— Policja Warszawa (@Policja_KSP) September 19, 2023

Forty minutes later they issued a further statement claiming that what had taken place “was not a detention” but instead “involved taking a person suspected of an offence to a police car for identification purposes”.

Under Polish law, a member of parliament “may not be detained or arrested without the consent of the Sejm or Senate [the lower and upper houses of parliament], except if they are caught in the act of committing a crime and if their detention is necessary to ensure the proper course of proceedings”.

After 11 p.m. the police then published video footage of the incident from one of the officer’s body cameras. The first part shows them informing Gajewska that she is causing a disturbance of the peace due to the unapproved use of a megaphone and that they want to see her identity documents.

Two further parts then show the officers taking Gajewska to the van and asking her to show them her ID once inside. She is heard telling them that she wanted to show them the ID previously but that the officers physically prevented her from doing so.

Jesteśmy transparentni. Nagranie pełne, bez cenzury, dzięki kamerom nasobnym, w które systematycznie wyposażamy policjantów. Policjanci nie mają obowiązku znać każdego z 460 posłów i 100 senatorów. Cześć 1 pic.twitter.com/sgsGdt1p9d

— Policja Warszawa (@Policja_KSP) September 19, 2023

Jesteśmy transparentni. Nagranie pełne, bez cenzury, dzięki kamerom nasobnym, w które systematycznie wyposażamy policjantów. Policjanci nie mają obowiązku znać każdego z 460 posłów i 100 senatorów. Cześć 2 pic.twitter.com/zZw6ohbdhZ

— Policja Warszawa (@Policja_KSP) September 19, 2023

Jesteśmy transparentni. Nagranie pełne, bez cenzury, dzięki kamerom nasobnym, w które systematycznie wyposażamy policjantów. Policjanci nie mają obowiązku znać każdego z 460 posłów i 100 senatorów. Cześć 3 pic.twitter.com/4dSMpiEj90

— Policja Warszawa (@Policja_KSP) September 19, 2023

Gajewska and others from KO have rejected the police’s narrative, noting that a number of bystanders informed the officers during the incident that she was an MP. Gajewska told broadcaster TVN that she will “definitely take legal action”.

A fellow KO MP, Monika Rosa, called the incident “outrageous on many levels: we live in a theoretically democratic state of law, yet…we have an election campaign and it turns out that a citizen has no right to protest against the government”.

Urszula Pasławska, an MP from another opposition group, the Polish People’s Party (PSL), said the incident shows that the “Russification of Poland is taking place”. A number of other politicians and commentators also likened Gajewska’s treatment to that of opposition figures in Russia and Belarus.

Rosja 2013, Aleksiej Nawalny. A dzisiaj Otwock. Posłanka Gajewska. pic.twitter.com/nzXM6hXa2T

— Sławomir Dudek (@DudSlaw) September 19, 2023

“The involvement of state institutions in the election campaign on the PiS side has long exceeded all limits of decency,” said PSL leader Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz. “But violating the bodily integrity of an MP for expressing criticism of the government are the standards in [Aleksander] Lukashenko’s country.”

“This is a scandal and further proof that PiS will not hesitate to do anything,” said Rafał Trzaskowski, the KO mayor of Warsaw. “Officers are once again being urged to act on political orders. The state, its institutions and services, are simply tools to help them stay in power. No standards. No rules.”

Some also pointed to previous cases during the mass protests against the introduction of a new-total abortion ban in which police used force against demonstrators, including in one case spraying an opposition MP with tear gas.

Further Women’s Strike protests took place today, on the anniversary of women receiving the right to vote.

In Warsaw police again deployed tear gas against the protesters, including an MP, who said it happened while she showed police her parliamentary ID https://t.co/tPzkkvE7NU

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) November 28, 2020

A PiS MP, Kazimierz Smoliński, however, claimed that the incident involving Gajewska was “a setup by the opposition: she didn’t show her parliamentary ID so she was detained. The media were waiting with cameras to get their shots”.

A deputy justice minister, Marcin Romanowski, also called the incident “cheap electoral fuel” by the opposition. Deputy defence minister Marcin Ociepa likewise said that “it was a provocation”.

This morning, interior minister Mariusz Kamiński defended the police’s actions in an interview with Radio Zet, saying that from what he could see they behaved in accordance with the law.

He said that it was Gajewska who had “come to disrupt a legal assembly, an election meeting of political opponents…used a megaphone…[and] refused to identify herself. We cannot tolerate this”.

.@Kaminski_M_ o zatrzymaniu posłanki: Mieliśmy do czynienia z syt. absurdalną, że poseł przychodzi i zakłóca legalne zgromadzenie, spotkanie wyborcze swoim oponentom politycznym? Używa megafonu? Odmawia wylegitymowania się? Na Boga, jakie mamy standardy? Nie możemy tego tolerować

— Gość Radia ZET (@Gosc_RadiaZET) September 20, 2023

Notes from Poland is run by a small editorial team and published by an independent, non-profit foundation that is funded through donations from our readers. We cannot do what we do without your support.

Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign PolicyPOLITICO EuropeEUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.

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