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Thousands march in LGBT Equality Parade in Poland

Thousands of people participated in an LGBTQ Equality Parade in Warsaw Saturday amid what marchers described as rising homophobia in Poland. Photo by Leszek Szymanski/EPA-EFE
Thousands of people participated in an LGBTQ Equality Parade in Warsaw Saturday amid what marchers described as rising homophobia in Poland. Photo by Leszek Szymanski/EPA-EFE

June 19 (UPI) -- Thousands of LGBT people and allies marched through the streets for the 20th Equality Parade in Warsaw on Saturday.

Participants waved rainbow flags outside of the neo-Gothic Palace of Culture and Science as a DJ played dance music while marchers sought to combat what they described as rising homophobia throughout Poland in recent years.

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"The equality parade is a celebration of LGBT people and all those who have to fight for their rights," Sylwester Cimochowski, a 22-year-old marcher, told The Guardian. "Homophobia is a huge problem in Poland ... there are lots of people who can't cope with it, they kill themselves. The situation of LGBT people in Poland is tragic and that's why I'm here -- to support them."

Rafal Wojtczak, a representative of the Voluntary Service for Equality Foundation, expressed the opposition LGBT people have felt in recent years from police and the government under the role of the conservative United Right coalition.

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"After two years, during which we have been hurt as the LGBT community of Warsaw, we are going out stronger, we are united," said Wojtczak.

Foreign ambassadors and several members of the Polish parliament took part in the march on Saturday, along with Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski.

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"This is a place where everyone smiles, no aggression," Trzaskowski said. "This the place where the heart of a smiling Poland is beating."

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The 2020 Equality Parade was canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and in 2019 police used tear gas on crowds and arrested nearly 30 people in a September LGBT March.

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