The music was extinguished at the Red Light pub in the heart of the picturesque old town of Gdańsk. A single candle adorned with a black ribbon rests on the bar. The city is in mourning.
The residents of Gdańsk are preparing for the death of their mayor, Paweł Adamowicz, stabbed on the scene Sunday at a charity concert in front of thousands of people. A public call led a crowd of people queuing for hours to donate blood to save their mayor, but his death was declared Monday afternoon.
In the red light, people are consoled between plans dedicated to Adamowicz. Adela Szczepańska-Kościelnik was at the concert during the attack. It was the local starting point for a nationwide charity campaign, the Grand Orchester de la charité de Noël, which raises funds for the purchase of equipment for children's units in hospitals run by the 'State. The concerts end with a countdown to the moment when the fundraiser stops and where people are raising the lights in the air for the celebration. Adamowicz was leading the countdown; the attack was scheduled to coincide with the moment it reached zero.
"At the end of the countdown, we did not understand what had happened. There was no light, no music. A girl started shouting, "They killed him! They killed him! We were confused, some people thought it was a joke. The city has never been so sad, it's like cutting electricity. "
Thousands of Poles pay tribute to the Mayor of Gdańsk stabbed – video
After the announcement of the mayor's death Monday, thousands of people gathered on the statue of Neptune in the Long Market of the city, also housing the town hall, where Adamowicz served for more than 20 years. With tears in their eyes, the crowd stood motionless listening to an a capella version of Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel.
It was a silence that had a purpose – not only to mourn, but also to protest against the growing prevalence of hate speech in the Polish public discourse that Adamowicz had attempted to cope with. A strong advocate of migrants and refugees and LGBT rights, he introduced Gdańsk as a liberal enclave, a city openly defying xenophobic nationalism promoted by the Polish Law and Justice Party (PiS), which has been in place since 2015.
"I am a European, so my nature is to be open," Adamowicz told The Guardian in 2016. "Gdańsk is a harbor and must always be a refuge from the sea."
His liberal position made him a hate figure for supporters of the government and the far right. At a publicity stunt in 2017, the Polish youth movement released a series of "political death certificates" of pro-European politicians; on Adamowicz's certificate, they presented his "cause of death" as "liberalism, multiculturalism, stupidity". Observers say that he has regularly been the victim of personal aggression and abuse on social media and in the right-wing media.
Protesters holding a 'Stop Hate' banner during a Paweł Adamowicz memorial march on Monday. Photography: Attila Husejnow / Sopa Images / Rex / Shutterstock
Some of the attacks continued even after his death. In an interview with a right-wing media broadcast on the day of the announcement of the death of Adamowicz, the far-right politician Grzegorz Braun described him as a "traitor to the nation" "for his political opinions.
"Unfortunately, hatred is becoming more visible and more widely accepted in Polish political and social life," reads a joint statement of Jewish organizations. Poland, published Tuesday. "The death of Mayor Paweł Adamowicz is another tragic sign of alarm: in our society, ideological differences and differences in worldviews can lead, in extreme cases, to acts of physical violence."
Adamowicz told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica in 2017: "Physical violence is usually preceded by verbal abuse. When the language of the elites violates the limits imposed by decency, it causes more and more physical violence. Unfortunately, it is not a theory, but a reality, as the growing cases of racial and religious violence show. "
Some people have drawn a parallel between the murder of Adamowicz and the assassination of Gabriel Narutowicz, president of the inter-war left, shot by a right-wing activist in the 1920s. Explaining this link , a silent "march against hate" held Monday night in Warsaw crossed the streets of Warsaw, the capital, until the art gallery Zachęta, where Narutowicz was killed in 1922.
A woman signs a book of condolences for Paweł Adamowicz in Warsaw on Tuesday. Photo: Tomasz Gzell / EPA
Many supporters of the Polish right have accused their Liberal opponents of politicizing the murder by attributing political motives to the murder. The alleged murderer, a 27-year-old resident of Gdańsk named in the press "Stefan W", said that he had only been released from prison last month after serving a prison sentence for a series of violent bank robberies. According to Polish media reports, he was diagnosed and treated for paranoid schizophrenia in prison, but stopped taking his medication before his release. He pleaded not guilty to murder on Monday.
Many of Adamowicz's supporters, noting that he has long been a target of aggressive government propaganda, are furious at what they see as an attempt by those whom they hold to be largely responsible for the toxic political climate. from Poland to wash their hands of any responsibility.
"If you watched the main government television, you would see that for months, broadcasts were broadcasted about his condition, his lie, his flight," said Witek Nabożny, a resident of Gdańsk who had come to the statue of Neptune. pay his respects. "They created an atmosphere in which weak people, sick people, react to this type of atmosphere."
"Adamowicz has become the symbol of something bigger than the attack itself. He died at a charity event aimed at bringing the Poles together. As a result, he has become a symbol of the death of unity in this society, "said Rafał Pankowski, director of the association Never Again, an anti-racism group. Adamowicz had started his career as a much more conservative politician, he said.
"He started to be more outspoken on issues of diversity, minority rights and tolerance, even as society moved in the opposite direction. It was very impressive. He was a very brave man – and he paid for it. "