May 10, 2004
Krakow -- The pioneering 5-day 'homo culture and tolerance'
festival took place in this conservative 'European cultural capital'-
condemned for weeks prior to the event itself by the Catholic Church and reactionary politicians -- and with its 'rainbow' march attacked and
aborted by stone-throwing, jeering homophobes.
Instead of just a handful of lesbians and gays taking to the
street as expected in this the city's first-ever rainbow march, the parade crowd mushroomed to a surprising 1,500 - with many mostly young heterosexuals coming out in support in reaction to the turmoil in the hostile media.
The rainbow-flag waving parade through the medieval old town
streets was both applauded by well wishers and constantly jeered by
homophobes and neo nazi -- hurling verbal abuse, eggs, apples, stones - injuring several participants -- and plastic bags of acid. A policeman was hospitalized after a bag splashed in his face.
A growing army of neo Nazis finally blocked the street and defied
police orders to disperse. Police with dogs on leashes and armed with
riot shields and helmets -- swinging battons and firing rubber bullets
-- clashed with neo Nazis trying to rip down riot barricades and
attacking paraders forced in the end to flee for safety.
Determined not to let the homophobes abort the festival itself,
a large crowd of participants -- hardly an hour after the last
incidents of violence in the old town's main square place -- made their way to the Nordic House only a few steps from the square.
The evening included Nordic and Polish performances, music, art
and photography from Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland and Norway - as well as panels from the "Nazi & neo Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals" from HOSI-Linz and Tupilak. The fate of a lesbian who persished in the death camps was presented by an American poetess.
Swedish Pledge of Support Next Year Again
"The presence of the Swedish delegation and the sponsorship from
the Swedish Embassy here was crucial," says organizer Marcin Smietana, of the Krakow branch of the Campagn Against Homophobia. "Other sponsors were getting ready to pull out!"
"We are proud that the Swedish cultural attaché who addressed the
festival the day after the 'battle of the streets" promised sponsorship
next year as well," says ILGCN's Bill Schiller. "We pledge our support
this as well - and will take this up with our colleagues at the
Nordic Homo Council session in Vaasa, Finland on August 21."
The festival also included university lectures on Polish homo life
and on Nazi persecution, Irish homo history, American lesbian poetry,
German sex education in schools, and Czech queer film festivals, Polish
homo theatre and opera.