A city’s first pride march was meant to be a day of joy. The far right turned it into chaos

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07/28/2019

Drag queens strut, rainbow flags flutter in the breeze, and smiling marchers form heart symbols with their hands. From certain angles, the pride parade looks just like other such events held around the world, from San Francisco to Berlin, London to Taipei. But behind the glitter and glamor, there is a darker side to this celebration: Cher’s “Believe” blasting from the sound system isn’t simply music to dance to; it is there to drown out the boos, the bangs of flash-bombs and the chants of “perverts!” Because this is no ordinary pride gathering: It is the first-ever equality march in the deeply conservative Polish city of Bialystok, where the LGBTQ community’s increasing visibility has sparked a backlash. The northeastern city of 298,000 is located in the Bible-belt region of Podlasie, which is a stronghold of the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) and has become synonymous with far-right movements. “Many of the acts of xenophobic aggression have been committed in Podlasie compared to other regions in Poland,” Rafal Pankowski, from the anti-extremism group Never Again, told CNN.

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