Oct. 31 (UPI) — Tens of thousands of women converged on Warsaw Friday to protest a court decision that would ban nearly all abortions in Poland.
Crowds of women flooded the streets, wearing the red lightning bolt that has become the icon of the movement and playing music that included Darth Vader’s theme from Star Wars.
Friday’s demonstrations were the culmination of more than a week of protests believed to be the largest since the Solidarity movement in the 1980s that led to the collapse of communism.
Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski estimated that more than 100,000 people rallied Friday, while protest organizers said the number of demonstrators was closer to 150,000.
Demonstrators also marched in Gdańsk, Białystok, Poznan, Kraków, Wroclaw, Torun, Sczescin, Myślenice, Gorlice and Jasło Friday.
Thousands of men marched alongside women in the demonstrations, as well as coalition groups worried that hard-won freedoms from the post-communist era are slipping away under the rule of the Law and Justice Party.
Police flanked demonstrators amid concerns that violence could break out with right-wing activists.
So far the protests have largely been peaceful, but Bartosz Bekier, head of the right-wing Falanga, gave an interview this week in which he said thousand of nationalists would be going to the protests and that they were “trained in combat tactics.”
Police detained about 37 people Friday, saying most were right-wing “soccer hooligans” who threw flares at demonstrators.
On Oct. 22 a court ruled that abortions due to fetal defects would be unconstitutional, making abortion almost completely illegal in the country, though it is still permissible if the mother’s life and health is at risk or in cases where the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest.