Activists topple statue of Polish priest accused of sex abuse

Activists topple statue of Polish priest accused of sex abuse

Three activists overturned a statue of a  accused of sex abuse in the northern city of Gdansk early on Thursday, local police said.

Video footage on social media showed them using a rope to topple the statue of Father Henryk Jankowski, who died in 2010 and has faced accusations of paedophilia.

They then draped underwear and altar boy clothing onto the fallen statue.

Fresh claims of abuse against Jankowski emerged in December when the liberal Gazeta Wyborcza published an article reviving allegations that first surfaced years ago.

Police said the statue was toppled before dawn with the three suspects taken in for questioning.

The incident occurred several hours before the opening of a landmark Vatican summit on fighting child abuse within the Catholic Church.

In a message to independent Polish website, the activists — Warsaw residents known for joining protests against the conservative government — said they wanted to “symbolically knock down the false memory and veneration of Henryk Jankowski from a societal pedestal”.

“We accuse the Catholic Church and its representatives of not having reacted despite being aware of the harm done by Henryk Jankowski,” they said.

It was not the first time the statue was targeted, with activists splashing red paint on its hands shortly after the Gazeta Wyborcza article was published, symbolising blood.

Privately financed, the statue was unlikely to be restored to its pedestal.

Aleksandra Dulkiewicz, the city´s interim mayor, acknowledged that while the statue did not belong in a public place, vandalism was not the right response.

“We´re on the side of the victims, we feel for their families. Let´s not forget, however, that we need to act in accordance with the law,” she said in a statement.

Jankowski was formerly a close aide to Lech Walesa during the Gdansk shipyard strikes in 1980 which were led by the anti-communist Solidarity movement, and which led to the creation of Poland´s first union outside government control.

But after the fall of communism, he became increasingly known for his anti-Semitic remarks.

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