Warsaw nightclub's controversial eviction notice

28-04-2006

For more than two years the Warsaw club Le Madame has been a second home for late night dancers and political liberals. But now it looks like the end of Le Madame. After much controversy, perceived as political by most commentators, City Hall, which owns the building in which the club operates, has issued an eviction notice. Gabriel Stille has more:

The nightclub Le Madame in central Warsaw has eager fans like no other club. Even though, or maybe because, it is now closed.

"It's so sad that they are closing this place. There is no other place like this in Warsaw and I really feel like home here".

As a gathering place for liberal people in general, and notably sexual minorities, pacifists and environmentalists, the nightclub did not sit well with the city fathers from the conservative Law and Justice party, which rules Warsaw as well as Poland. When the city gained the ownership of the pre-war-factory building after a long court struggle, it was only a matter of time before an eviction was to be issued. When the bailiff arrived, people stayed in great numbers to defend their second home. Following a four-day occupation, the police finally made a dawn raid and cleared out the supporters.

As a cultural institution more than a ordinary club, rich with exhibitions and political debates, Le Madame gathered a large crowd of influential academics, politicians and celebrities during its last days. American actor John Malkovich surprisingly appeared three times to lend his support, and the occupation received a lot of media coverage.

This comment by Robert Biedron, one of Poland's most well-known gay rights activists:

"For sure this club became a symbol of the policy of the current government and the president of Poland. Le Madame is not the only example of this. We might remind of the banning of the gay pride, we might remind of the banning of art exhibitions. So, Le Madame became a symbol of the activities trying to forbid freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and so on and so on."

The shutdown has been followed by gatherings and protest meetings of supporters, including politicians from the Green and Social Democratic parties. Even though the purpose of the actions is to get the club back in business, the meetings have often focused on freedom of expression and opposition to the ruling Law and Justice party's wish to impose its moral values on the Polish society.

The actions to reinstate the club continue as the question is brought in front of the City Council, but a change of hearts seems unlikely. Even so, the last days of Le Madame have given a lot of attention to a number of questions about how the ruling party's moral revolution is affecting the Polish society.

28-04-2006