Freedom of Assembly in Poland: Next in Line?

von Maximilian Steinbeis

Dear Friends of Verfassungsblog,

Public protest seems to be the best hope civil society now has in Poland against its increasingly authoritarian government. The efficacy of the "black protests" by hundreds of thousands of black-clad women and men who took to the streets in all major cities in October to rally against a radical piece of anti-abortion legislation had put a visible dent in the power-holders' image of steely un-compromising resolve. The Constitutional Tribunal may be lost, the opposition in shatters, but at least the citizens themselves can make their voices heard against the pretense of a populist party to already know what the people wants!

It would be only consequent that the the next obstacle to their power for the Law and Justice party to dismantle would be the right to freedom of assembly. Both chambers of the Polish Parliament have adopted a new law that many of the opponents of the ruling PiS party interpret as a step in that direction: It leaves the freedom to hold demonstrations formally intact but it allows the government, whenever it prefers a demonstration not to happen, to hold one of their own in its place.

The law allows the authorities to give priority to demonstrations held by the state, the churches and religious organizations on a given time or place, as well as "recurrent" demonstrations which take place on a regular basis at certain dates. Rumor has it, my sources in Warsaw tell me, that the main reason behind this law is to keep anti-PiS demonstrators from picketing the manifestations on the 10th of each month in front of the Presidential Palace in Warsaw to commemorate the victims of the plane crash of Smolensk, the dark founding myth of the new Poland envisioned by PiS ...

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