PM’s security accused of excessive force and vulgarity against Extinction Rebellion protesters

State security officers have been accused of using excessive force and vulgarity against Extinction Rebellion protesters who disrupted a speech by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. A journalist also says an officer smashed her phone while she was recording the incident.

The security service denies that any vulgarity was used by its officers and Morawiecki praised their actions in protecting him from an “attack”. But Extinction Rebellion notes that its activists were protesting peacefully.

Meanwhile, the main opposition party has contrasted the incident to what happened when a climate protester disrupted a speech by opposition leader Donald Tusk, who told security to let him stay on stage.

Morawiecki was attending an election campaign event for the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party on Friday in the town of Świdnik. During his speech, two activists entered the stage and unfurled a banner with Morawiecki’s image on it and text accusing him of contributing to global warming.

The protesters were then tackled by members of the State Protection Service (SOP), which provides security for the government. In a video, plainclothes officers can be seen pinning the two activists to the ground.

During the incident, a male voice can be heard appearing to tell one of the activists to lie down and calling him “k***a j****a” (meaning “f***ing whore”) and “szmata” (a word that, when used in a vulgar context, translates as something like “slut” or “scum”). It cannot be seen who is saying the words.

,,leż ty kurwo jebana’’ tymi słowami zwraca się funkcjonariusz SOP do aktywisty klimatycznego, który pokojowo protestował na wiecu Morawieckiego w Świdniku.

— Fox Mulder (@PILNE24) September 23, 2023

The video was recorded by a reporter from Gazeta Wyborcza, a leading newspaper that is critical of the government. She said that an SOP officer had used the offensive words towards the activist.

She said another officer knocked the phone she was using to film out of her hand, resulting in the screen breaking. That was done despite the reporter, Małgorzata Domagała, wearing a press pass around her neck. At the end of the film, a voice can be heard asking “Why are you filming?” before it cuts out.

One of the activists, Wiktor Jędrzejewski, also told Gazeta Wyborcza that the officers had used vulgarity as well as causing him injuries by using “unnecessary” and “brutal” force. He said he would file a complaint against them.

However, in a statement issued on social media, SOP declared that its “officers did not use profanity during the intervention in Świdnik”. They said that the vulgarities “were said by a civilian who witnessed the intervention”.

Informujemy, że funkcjonariusze @SOP_GOV_PL w trakcie interwencji w Świdniku, nie używali wulgaryzmów. Wypowiedziała je osoba cywilna będąca świadkiem interwencji.

— Służba Ochrony Państwa (@SOP_GOV_PL) September 23, 2023

The provincial police headquarters in Lublin noted that the activists had been handed over to them by SOP and “will be held accountable for the offence” of disrupting a public meeting, which can be punished with community service or a fine.

Morawiecki himself praised the officers. “Someone tried to attack me. But I would like to thank the [security] service for their quick and efficient intervention. Well done. Thank you very much,” he said, adding that “unfortunately our political opponents chose this form of protest, they chose such provocations”.

Extinction Rebellion, however, said that the claim an “attack” took place was a “lie”, noting that its activists had carried out a peaceful protest. “We fight for the climate with dedication, but never use violence,” they added.

Możecie usłyszeć kłamstwo, że osoby aktywistyczne w Świdniku zaatakowały @MorawieckiM
Nasze protesty są pokojowe. Walczymy o stabilny klimat, przypominamy o klęsce Programu Czyste Powietrze.

— Extinction Rebellion Polska (@XRPolska) September 22, 2023

The main opposition party, Civic Platform (PO), has also condemned the SOP officers’ actions, with one of its MPs, Michał Szczerba, calling for the interior minister to “immediately initiate explanatory and disciplinary proceedings”.

Szczerba also called for the authorities to “provide the reasons and legal basis for detaining climate activists during a peaceful demonstration”. Earlier this week, PO also condemned the action of police who temporarily detained one of the party’s MPs when she protested outside another of Morawiecki’s meetings.

Meanwhile, in a video released on Saturday, PO contrasted the treatment of climate protesters at Morwiecki’s meeting with an incident at a speech by PO leader Tusk. When a climate protester with a banner interrupted, security began to move him away, but Tusk asked them to stop and let him stay on stage.

Police physically removed an opposition MP from outside a meeting being led by the prime minister and took her into a van.

The opposition has condemned the incident, likening it to Putin’s Russia, but the interior minister has defended officers’ actions

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) September 20, 2023

Main image credit: Jakub Orzechowski / Agencja

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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