Why this story matters:
The incident caused an uproar on social media after one of the organizers, Tymoteusz Kochan, tweeted about it. In an interview for Gazeta Wyborcza Kochan said it was a sign that people in Poland are “heading towards a world where state censorship dominates over scientific debate”. He also stressed that it was the first time since 1989 when the police entered university grounds without the dean’s consent and interfered in an academic conference, and that it is also a precedence on EU scale.
“On the one hand, the police action shocked us, we were surprised that something like that is happening in a democratic country. But on the other, the situation was understandable considering the current political climate in Poland,” added Kochan.
The Prosecutor’s Office tried to justify the decision by claiming that every complaint must be verified -- but it is evident that openly anti-semitic and racist slogans, to which Poland is no stranger at the moment, are not usually investigated this thoroughly.
Details from the story:
- On 11 May, three police officers arrived unannounced to a conference entitled “Karl Marx 1818-2018” at University of Szczecin conference center in Pobierowo (western Poland).
- The District Prosecutor’s Office in Szczecin sent police officers to the conference after receiving a complaint of suspected crime according to a regulation that considers “the promotion of a fascist or any totalitarian political system [and] incitement to hatred on grounds of nationality, ethnicity, race, or religious differences (…)” to be punishable by law.
- The police didn’t disrupt the conference, but inquired at the reception if the center spread “totalitarian practices”. When the main organizer, Prof. Jerzy Kochan, asked if they were aware that any topic can be discussed during a scholarly debate, they agreed. They proceeded to photograph the university’s publications and write down the main organizer’s details.
- Following the event, the Conference of Rectors of Academic Schools in Poland (a representative body) wrote a letter to Prime Minister Morawiecki stating that the police action violated the Constitution and laws on higher education, and demanded explanation.
- The Minister of Foreign Affairs Joachim Brudziński has publicly apologized for the incident.