Polish academics protest 'fundamentalist' education minister

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Newly appointed Polish Education Minister Przemyslaw Czarnek arrives at work, in Warsaw, Poland, Wednesday Oct. 21, 2020. Shortly before his arrival, activists dressed as security guards had climbed onto a balcony of the building and hung a banner protesting his recent appointment, considering him a religious fundamentalist. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW – Activists dressed as security guards climbed onto a balcony of a Polish Education Ministry building early Wednesday and hung a banner protesting the appointment of a new minister whom they consider to be a religious fundamentalist and a danger to the nation's youth and universities.

Many university academics in Poland are protesting the conservative government’s appointment of Przemyslaw Czarnek, who has said that LGBT people aren't equal to “normal people,” women were created to produce children and who has voiced support for corporal punishment.

The banner that two activists hung said “Boycott Czarnek. Homophobe. Xenophobe. Fundamentalist.” Security guards removed it quickly, before the minister arrived at work, and a large contingent of police officers showed up to question the two activists.

Wearing orange security vests and hardhats, they used a long ladder to climb up to a balcony and hang the banner.

Rafal Suszek, an assistant professor of physics at Warsaw University who was one of the two, told a police officer who questioned him afterwards that he believed a man with Czarnek's “backward views” shouldn't be allowed to have such a position of authority.

Wearing a mask, Suszek added that Czarnek represents a “virus of hate” more dangerous than the coronavirus.

Suszek later told The Associated Press that he and his fellow activist were charged with the illegal hanging of banners and not adhering to social distancing rules.

Suszek is one of 2,700 professors and other academics to sign a petition vowing to boycott Czarnek, a member of the ruling conservative party, Law and Justice, who was sworn in this week by President Andrzej Duda.