Statues of U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II have been vandalised in Poland in recent days, with the attacks in both cases linked by Polish media to pro-abortion protests gripping the country.
A statue of the former pope was daubed with red paint while the statue of President Reagan, which stands opposite the U.S. embassy in Warsaw, was defaced with green paint and the message ‘pro abo’. Both men were pivotal figures in Poland’s emergence from communism into becoming a free, democratic nation and are generally well regarded in the country.
The acts of vandalism come against a background of protests in Poland over last week’s ruling by their supreme court on abortion. Terminations of a life are now only available where the child was conceived through rape or incest, or where the mother’s life would be placed at risk by continuing with the pregnancy.
Left-wing activists have called the change an attack on women and have launched protests that are now in their seventh day. The Polish government, for their part, have accused the protesters of attacking Poland itself, of pandering to a political minority, and of putting lives at risk by protesting in large numbers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Sad: defaced Reagan in the shadow of the USEMB and Sejm. Why did some protesters deface a Champion of Polish liberty, including rights to Assemble and Protest? Maybe the same reasons as those who damaged Polish Champions of American freedom in DC-a phenomenal ignorance of history pic.twitter.com/ciKNAb8pLs
— Ray Wojcik (@wojcikrp) October 24, 2020
Beyond street marches and a “women’s strike” — where women refuse to work, go to school, or do housework — some more direct action has also taken place, with activists blaming the Catholic Church for having influenced the government. Church services were disrupted in Poland on Sunday, and some vandalism took place, which has prompted the creation of a volunteer ‘National Guard’ group which says it will protect churches from further attacks.
The Ronald Reagan statue in Warsaw was discovered to have been vandalised on Saturday, hours after a protest against the abortion ruling took place nearby, PolSatNews notes, although the report makes clear the perpetrators are as of yet unknown and whether the proximity of the statue to the protest is just coincidental. An information board next to the statue, which showed a photograph of President Reagan sitting with Pope John Paul II, was also defaced.
The paint was cleaned up within 24 hours.
Ręce figury Jana Pawła II zostały oblane czerwoną farbą.https://t.co/SGm7eGfgmo
— PolsatNews.pl (@PolsatNewsPL) October 26, 2020
Later on Saturday, a statue of John Paul II was vandalised in a Warsaw suburb, this time his hands being painted red. This act bore some resemblance — superficially at least — with another pro-abortion protest that took place days before when a group of women showed their hands while lying in a pool of red water at the feet of another statue of John Paul II.
On Wednesday, it was reported that pro-life activist Kaja Godek had officially requested police protection after abortion activists published her address and details online, leading to nuisance calls and knocks at her door, as well as targeted vandalism around her home.
Iconoclasm — the vandalism and destruction of statues — has enjoyed a massive resurgence in the Western world in recent years. Starting in the United States with moves — both official and mob-led — to remove Confederacy-era and generally historical statues spreading abroad, and seen recently in the United Kingdom with a rash of vandalism targeting historical figures.