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  • John Riceburg: Black Monday at the “Warsaw Bridge”


John Riceburg: Black Monday at the “Warsaw Bridge”

John put on the black to support women's rights in Poland.

Image for John Riceburg: Black Monday at the
Photo by John Riceburg

While some took the opportunity to be lazy and some celebrated this past Tag der deutschen Einheit, over a thousand people gathered at the Warschauer Brücke between Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg on Monday, October 3. Hundreds were crowded at the railings, looking down at hundreds more on the ground below. Everyone was in black, but despite the shared look, it was just like after the Tower of Babel: People spoke English, Polish, or German with their respective accents.

Was this just the typical Friedrichshain crowd stumbling out of Watergate and RAW Gelände in the early afternoon? No, this was “Czarny poniedziałek”, Polish for “Black Monday”.

What might seem, at first glance, like some kind of bizarre Catholic ritual is actually a protest movement directed against the demands of the Catholic hierarchy. #CzernyProtest (“black protest”) is the hash tag of a mass movement of women in Poland fighting for reproductive rights.

Poland already has the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe. Now, the parliament is discussing a total ban. As a woman from Ireland said at the rally in Berlin: “This is about forcing women to become pregnant against their will.”

While (some) Germans were celebrating their “Day of German Unity”, tens of thousands of women in Poland went on strike – what better way to take back control of their bodies? No child care, no wage labour, no cleaning, no cooking.

Over 104,000 Poles live here in Berlin, so a large solidarity rally was inevitable. With so much black, it looked like a typical Antifa demonstration, just with a much higher percentage of women. I’ve probably been to 1000 political protests in the last decade, but to see people – mostly women – on three different levels of the transport bridge shouting slogans up and down was not just a strong political message, it was also a beautiful sight straight out of a Hollywood movie.

Think of the scene at the end of the last Hunger Games movie that was shot at the Tempelhof airport. Or think of the cavernous rave in the third Matrix film. Or Paul Atreides’ rally in Dune. Finally, a real-life demonstration with a good use of vertical space!

But the really amazing shots from that day were from Warsaw, with more than 50,000 women and supporters filling the squares, huddling under a sea of umbrellas. During the Berlin demonstration, there was also a round of applause for the men who had turned up. I felt a bit embarrassed. I’m never going to get pregnant against my will. And it’s mostly men that are trying to restrict women’s choices. Showing solidarity on Monday is just about the least I can do. And I get something out of it to: Inspiration from brave women who teach us not to put up with religious bullshit.