Well it’s been a bit of a wet-snow-in-the-face day today, hasn’t it? Not that that stopped these people from playing in a “Football against racism” tournament. Having a lot of fun they were (sorry, I don’t know why I used used Yoda-esque grammar). The tournament lasted for about 13 hours or something like that today. Luckily I was provided with some hot tea to keep my cockles warm (one says this in English. I don’t know where the cockles are to be found on the human body). I briefly watched a game played in slippery conditions, where many teenagers were laughing, enjoying the game.
Changing the subject, yesterday saw something somewhat dramatic happen. People in masks entered a vegetarian restaurant and threatened the people there, including the guests. They they threw some bottles of acid inside the building, causing the place to stink. The restaurant had to be closed for that reason yesterday, and reopened today. The attackers, so it seems, were nationalists.
Now, it just so happens that there was going to be a concert taking place in that restaurant today. That the concert was billed as anti-racist is no accident. The attack was an attempt to scare people, and it worked, the concert was cancelled. I was upset at this, as I wanted to go to the concert. I as well as many were upset as this was effectively a victory for the attackers, for nationalism.
One of the bands who were to play got very angry about this and wrote a message on their Facebook site, saying that “internet anti-fascists” were nowhere to be seen, and that anti-fascists are afraid of confronting nationalists. Many comments supported this view, saying that not all anti-fascists could have gone to Warsaw last 11/11, and that they chose not to stand against fascists in Wrocław on that 11/11.
There’s a lot to be said about this, and I as someone who has lived in Poland for four years don’t know the whole picture. What I do know is this: Fascists/racists try to make people afraid of them. They threat violent things. They do violent things. They lay claim to open spaces. They want that people do not confront them. They want that people are passive. They use tactics to intimidate others.
I have written before on the difference between them and those who live in Wrocław who engage in initiatives that promote diversity and social justice. In that article I also mentioned that a vegan restaurant, an art festival, a synagogue, a cultural centre as well as anti-racist demos have seen physical attacks by, to give them their name, fascists.
Fear. That is how they work. I went to that restaurant today. I was half-thinking that perhaps a similar attack would happen today. I was determined however to show solidarity, so I went. However, as I have written, I have not always reacted when I have seen violent or discriminatory incidents on the streets. I totally understand why the decision was taken to cancel the concert. I also understand why few people attended what I would term a “Poland is diversity” demonstration on the last 11/11 in Wrocław. Those who don’t like our way of life, who are against women being treated equally, that we have immigrants here (especially with coloured skin), that LGBT is considered normal and the old multicultural model of Poland are actively doing violent actions against us.
The way to counter fear is solidarity. Perhaps the concert was cancelled as they were not sure that many people would attend, that they would feel scared. Solidarity is of course a loaded word in Poland. A few weeks ago I watched the film “80 milionów” where among other things we saw protests against the government on Most Grundwaldzki.
The state were there with their shields, batons, water cannons and other weapons. I daresay that a smaller group of protesters would have been afraid and less likely not to back down. That there were more people meant that they felt stronger in the fact of a powerful opponent. The government tried to make people feel afraid, but were unsuccessful in the end as so many people stood against them. On another level, I once attended an anti-fascist demo where there were 20,000 of us, and about 1,200 fascists (and 10,000 police). I didn’t feel afraid. We were a massive group.
Combating racism is much more than one certain day in the year, it’s more than one concert. It’s an everyday need, tackling discrimination when we see it, intervening, confronting. Demonstrations however are ways for people to see themselves as part of a big group. One feels stronger afterwards.
I don’t want readers to go out and do things without thinking about possible dangers. There are things we need to look out for, such as security (keeping together in groups, not walking alone before and afterwards). Action needs to be mixed with caution.
One thing I can say though, is that the more people who put fear aside and attend anti-racist events, the bigger the snowball effect will take place, to come back to the first story. Those kids braved the weather today. I hope that such bravery develops for those who are trying to strengthen diversity and tolerance in Poland. History, and indeed, recent history in Wrocław shows us that confrontation can produces very good results.