RACISM RETURNS TO THE STADIUMS

After a break in live-audience football games caused by the epidemic, racist slogans and banners have returned to stadiums. The ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association noted a surge in activity of those who use football to manifest their endorsement of Janusz Walus, a Polish-born far-right activist serving a life sentence for a racist murder in the Republic of South Africa.

During a top flight match between teams Lechia Gdansk and Legia Warszawa (15 July), hooligans from Gdansk again displayed a banner with Walus’s name and picture and the slogan ‘Nothing will break you, you’re not alone’ and faced no consequences. No disciplinary action was taken by the Polish football authorities despite this being yet another display of racist propaganda in the Lechia Gdansk stadium. The city authorities, who financially support Lechia and rent out the stadium in question, have also failed to react.

In 1993, Walus murdered Chris Hani, a Black politician who fought to end the apartheid in South Africa. The assassin was a member of racist organizations. He was sentenced to the death penalty, subsequently changed to a life sentence (capital punishment was abolished in South Africa in 1995). The murder, plotted by the far-right, was intended to start a civil war. The list of future potential victims of Walus included Nelson Mandela.

– ‘It is astounding that football hooligans can display support for a racist murderer at Polish stadiums unpunished. Slogans and flags bearing praise for Walus have been appearing on the stands for a couple of years now’ – comment representatives of the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association. – ‘After a short summer break matches will recommence on 22 August. Let’s hope things will change’.

NEVER AGAIN’ activists note that, in contrast to many sports clubs worldwide, Polish clubs have not supported the international anti-racist campaign Black Lives Matter. An exception was a fourth division club Polonia Sroda Wielkopolska – its players knelt on the pitch and thus honored the memory of George Floyd, a Black American killed by a police officer. Under a short note published on 5 June on Polonia’s Twitter profile, which included a picture of the footballers and an invitation to other clubs to join the campaign, almost all the comments were negative and vulgar, including: ‘whack yourselves in the head’, ‘I see you bambers [Poles who descended from Germans, now living in the Poznan area – translator’s note] are f.cked up’, ‘please untag Legia and don’t involve it in this pathology’, ‘don’t even try to include Lech Poznan in this sick campaign’, ‘go kiss n.gro’s shoes’, ‘you’re f.cked up. I hope that n.gros destroy your asses’, ‘F.ck, my city made such an embarrassment of itself’, ‘Shame for all of Sroda Wielkopolska and its inhabitants’.

NEVER AGAIN’ has led the ‘Let’s kick racism out of the stadiums’ campaign since the mid-1990s. Its originator was the late Marcin Kornak (1968-2014), the president of the Association for many years. The campaign aims to fight racism and discrimination in football. An important part of the campaign is monitoring racist incidents and informing the public about them.

In recent years and months, the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association noted many banners and flags flown during matches, displaying praise for Janusz Walus. These were exhibited by hooligans from many clubs including Rakow Czestochowa, Chelmianka Chelm, Pogon Szczecin and Legia Warszawa, among others. A real scandal occured on 21 March 2019 during a UEFA European Championship qualification game in Vienna between the Austrian and Polish national teams. Polish hooligans associated with Wisla Plock displayed a banner calling for ‘Freedom for Janusz Walus’ with a photo of the murderer. The match was played on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, proclaimed by the United Nations to commemorate victims of the racist apartheid system.

In Poland, sympathizers of extreme nationalism publicly support Walus also away from the context of sports, for example at street demonstrations. On 1 March 2020 in Bydgoszcz, a march to honor the memory of the so called ‘Cursed Soldiers’ (a group of anti-communist guerrillas which operated in Poland after 1945) was held and its participants carried banners saying: ‘Janusz Walus. The last of the Cursed Soldiers’ and ‘Death to the enemies of the homeland’ (a slogan calling for ideologically-motivated violence). The march was headed by the city council member Jerzy Mickus, a member of the Zawisza Football Association’s board (a local football club).

Another march took place on 18 July 2020 in Katowice, where participants, including members of the National Radical Camp (ONR), shouted out ‘Janusz Walus is our role model’, as well as ‘Death to the enemies of the homeland’ and ‘We will abolish democracy’. They also displayed banners with slogans: ‘It is ok to stay white’ and ‘National Cleansing Front’ along with the Celtic cross – a racist symbol. The demonstrators carried a flag with a Nazi symbol called the Black Sun.

The popularity of Walus is also expressed in gadgets sold on the internet. For example, on the Polish online sales platform OLX one can purchase fan stickers with the name of the murderer and slogans commending his actions. OLX belongs to a South African media and technological internet group, Naspers. For many years, the company had actively supported propaganda upholding the apartheid. However, sales of items praising Walus are being removed from another major online sales platform, Allegro (previously also owned by Naspers), thanks to the intervention of the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association.

On 16 March 2020, the Minister of Justice of South Africa, Ronald Lamola, upheld the decision of his predecessor and denied Walus parole. Walus never expressed full remorse for his crime.

Polish members of parliament, tied to extremist nationalist circles, have campaigned for Walus’s release. In May 2016, MP Robert Winnicki (former leader of the far-right group All-Polish Youth and currently member of the Confederation party) filed a letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in which he demanded the Polish government take ‘appropriate steps to negotiate the immediate release of Janusz Walus’ and arrange his return to Poland. Similar requests calling for government intervention were submitted by other right-wing MPs, Tomasz Rzymkowski, Bartosz Jozwiak and Sylwester Chruszcz.

The ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association is an independent organization established in Warsaw in 1996. It has campaigned against racism, antisemitism and xenophobia, for peace, intercultural dialogue and human rights both in Poland and internationally.

Additional information:

www.neveragainassociation.org
www.facebook.com/Respect.Diversity
www.twitter.com/StowNIGDYWIECEJ

AN APPEAL FOR SOLIDARITY DURING THE EPIDEMIC

The ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association is appealing for solidarity with all those who have suffered violence and discrimination because of their origins or ethnicity in connection with the coronavirus epidemic in the past days and weeks.

 

Members of the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association have documented cases such as the aggressive behaviour towards students from China from Polish students of the Gdansk University of Physical Education and Sport or the brutal beating of a Chinese-born cook who has lived in Wroclaw (Poland) for 25 years. In Warsaw, a group of young men and women shouted ‘coronavirus’ in the faces of three young Vietnamese women studying at the Polish university Collegium Civitas. Three teenagers in the Polish town of Lukow attacked a Vietnamese woman living there. They shouted ‘you are from China’, ‘you have coronavirus’, ‘get the f.ck out of here you Chinese slut!’, threw garbage at her, spat in her direction and when she tried to walk away, they followed her. Similarly, people belonging to other minorities have been experiencing xenophobia. For example, many hostels have used the new health regulations as a reason for insisting that all non-Polish nationals, mainly Ukrainians, vacate their rooms immediately. Xenophobic comments and conspiracy theories are becoming increasingly common on the internet.

NEVER AGAIN’ has noted similar acts of hostility towards people of Asian origin occurring in other countries all over the world, including France, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Great Britain, Australia, Canada, and the USA. The victims have suffered physical and verbal abuse. Examples include: in Berlin (Germany) two women brutally beat up a Chinese woman who then needed hospital treatment for head wounds. In Bologna (Italy) four people attacked a 15 year old boy of Chinese origin. They kicked his whole body shouting ‘What are you doing in Italy? Get out! You are spreading disease.’ In Brussels (Belgium) near the Southern railway station, an attacker punched a man of Asian origin in the face. In London (UK) a Singaporean man was punched in the face while the perpetrator shouted at him: ‘I don’t want your coronavirus in my country.’ In the USA, one of the passengers on the New York subway attacked a man of Asian origin demanding that he leave the train, hurling insults and spraying him with an unknown substance. On a San Francisco bus an elderly lady verbally abused a 14 year old girl, accusing the Chinese of spreading the virus.

-‘The virus of racism and hatred can be as dangerous as the coronavirus’ – states the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association. -‘In difficult times, we need global solidarity and cooperation to meet the common global challenges more than ever.’

On 21 March 1960, in Sharpeville (South Africa) the police shot 61 peaceful demonstrators who were protesting against the racist system of apartheid. The United Nations General Assembly declared a Week of Solidarity with the People Struggling Against Racism and Racial Discrimination beginning on 21 March.

The ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association is an independent organization established in Warsaw in 1996. ‘NEVER AGAIN’ has campaigned against racism, antisemitism, and xenophobia, both in Poland and internationally.

Additional information:

www.nigdywiecej.org
www.facebook.com/Respect.Diversity
www.twitter.com/StowNIGDYWIECEJ 

THE MISSING PICTURE: RETHINKING GENOCIDE STUDIES AND PREVENTION

Members of the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association were honoured by the invitation to speak at the global congress of the International Association of Genocide Scholars held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The IAGS conference entitled ‘The Missing Picture: Rethinking Genocide Studies and Prevention’ gathered around 500 intellectuals, researchers, and civil society representatives from all over the world. It was held at the American University of Phnom Penh on 14-19 July 2019. A special meeting with the Oscar-nominated renowned Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh was a highlight of the conference programme.

During the conference, Natalia Sineaeva presented a paper on ‘Museums as Spaces for Dealing with Difficult Knowledge: Examples from Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia’, Rafal Pankowski spoke on ‘Polish Entries at Tuol Sleng in 1979 and the Issues of Polish-Cambodian Genocide Analogies’. Nickey Diamond, a friend of ‘NEVER AGAIN’ from Myanmar, presented the subject of ‘Securitization of Islam in Myanmar: Security Discourse Analysis on the Mass Atrocities against Rohingya Muslims’.

After the conference, Natalia Sineaeva, Rafal Pankowski and Ali Al-Asani conducted two full-day workshops in Phnom Penh under the heading ‘An Introduction to the History of the Holocaust’. The well-attended workshops (in English and Khmer languages) were co-organized by ‘NEVER AGAIN’ and the Heinrich Boell Foundation Cambodia and took place at the office of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation on 23 and 27 July. Around fifty participants included Cambodian human rights activists, academics and students. The themes of genocide, resistance and dealing with the past were discussed alongside the parallels and differences between the tragic chapters of European and Asian histories.

– ‘We want to share our knowledge, but our aim is also to learn from our Cambodian friends, from their unique perspective and experiences’ – said Natalia Sineaeva, a ‘NEVER AGAIN’ member and International Rotary Peace Fellow 2018.

The activities in Cambodia illustrate the long-standing commitment of the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association to support genocide commemoration and prevention, peace and intercultural dialogue both in Europe and in the region of Southeast Asia. Future Polish-Cambodian meetings, publications and other activities are planned, also in cooperation with the Cambodian diaspora.

Other international events with the participation of ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association members and supporters are scheduled to take place over the next weeks and months in Thailand, South Korea and Japan.

The ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association is an independent educational and research organization established in Warsaw in 1996. It has campaigned against racism, antisemitism and xenophobia in Poland and internationally.

More information:

www.nigdywiecej.org

www.facebook.com/Respect.Diversity

www.twitter.com/StowNIGDYWIECEJ