Polish Mayor Dies After Being Stabbed Onstage at Charity Event
January 14, 2019 1:27 PM   Subscribe

It was just before 8 p.m. Sunday, and tens of thousands of people had gathered for a concert to promote the charity. A countdown had begun to signal the start of an extravagant laser light show called “Light to the Sky.” One second before fireworks were set to explode, a young man burst onto the stage and stabbed Mr. Adamowicz several times, including in the heart. Mr. Adamowicz’s injuries included “a deep wound to the heart, a wound to diaphragm and other injuries of internal organs,” doctors at Medical University of Gdansk said. Despite their efforts to save him, he died Monday afternoon. As the city went into mourning, Poland grappled with the question of whether the toxic and aggressive tone of the country’s political debate could have instigated the attack.
posted by M. (33 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
As the city went into mourning, Poland grappled with the question of whether the toxic and aggressive tone of the country’s political debate could have instigated the attack.

It wasn't the tone of the debate. It was the fact that he opposes the far-right, nationalist, Holocaust-denying President that got him assassinated. This is what stochastic terrorism looks like.
posted by Etrigan at 1:45 PM on January 14 [72 favorites]


From the article:
Ahead of local elections last October, All-Polish Youth, a far-right organization, issued fake death certificates for 11 liberal politicians, mostly associated with Civic Platform, including Mr. Adamowicz. The prosecutor’s office refused to investigate the initiative, calling it “an expression of opinion,” not “incitement of hatred.”

[Although I have to note the president is not a Holocaust-denier - not in my understanding of the word. Opponents see him as gullible and spineless which I think is true but he's not a monster. Mr Kaczynski, the leader of the Law and Justice party is the one spouting hate towards his opponents].
posted by M. at 2:07 PM on January 14 [9 favorites]


The attacker, Stefan Wilmont, was an ex-convict who had gotten out of prison in Dec, and chose the WOŚP finale because it was the first public event where mayor was present. He claimed that he was jailed but innocent and blamed the Civic Platform for torturing him. He was convicted of bank robbery but developed mental problems in prison.
Polish discussion by people who claim to know him.
Daily Mail link
posted by Ideefixe at 2:18 PM on January 14 [6 favorites]


Heads up about the Daily Mail link: the second video may contain a video of the attack (I haven't checked because possible trigger). It's not on autoplay but still: is there a warning we could add, mods?
posted by datawrangler at 2:27 PM on January 14


I have colleagues in Gdansk who have shared some amazing photos tonight of nighttime streets full of people who are responding to Pawel Adamowicz' tragic death.

It's a terrible thing that has happened; my only hope is that some good may be salvaged from it if it helps enough people to realize how dangerous and destructive political rhetoric has become, in Poland and in so many other places around the world. My fear, though, is that no further explanation will be sought beyond the evident mental illness of the attacker, as has happened after so many other attacks in so many other places.
posted by Nerd of the North at 2:44 PM on January 14 [9 favorites]


This is a big deal here in Poland right now.

The WOŚP charity event is an enormous large scale concert/firework effort initiated in the 90's to collect funds to equip hospitals with insanely expensive hospital equipment. It's like the best thing Polish people do and a moment of great unity.

The founder of the charity, Jurek Owsiak has just stepped down over the murder after over 20 years of running it.

I'm hoping that maybe this will be a spark of some sort of meaningful opposition political movement because it's been a long time since we've had anything that moved people so much.

@Ideefixe that discussion is mindblowing...
posted by mit5urugi at 2:53 PM on January 14 [21 favorites]


It wasn't the tone of the debate. It was the fact that he opposes the far-right, nationalist, Holocaust-denying President that got him assassinated. This is what stochastic terrorism looks like.

It seems to me that it's not really out of the question that it was that government that had him assassinated.

Heads up about the Daily Mail link

Also it's, y'know, the Daily Mail.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:53 PM on January 14 [6 favorites]


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posted by Wordshore at 3:40 PM on January 14 [7 favorites]


datawrangler, the video on the second link consists of a blood drive and a press conference, no footage of the event. The New York Times link has a photo of the killer holding up his knife for the admiration of the crowd, which is honestly way creepier.
posted by impishoptimist at 3:58 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


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posted by odinsdream at 4:36 PM on January 14


I immediately thought of Inejiro Asanuma. Death to fascists everywhere.
posted by ryanshepard at 4:38 PM on January 14 [7 favorites]


The founder of the charity, Jurek Owsiak has just stepped down over the murder after over 20 years of running it.

Ugh. That's so very sad.

I was at the San Francisco version of the charity event yesterday. Hearts were heavy as we heard about the news of the stabbing and how he probably wouldn't make it. And now today he's dead, and the long-time founder of the charity has stepped down. At the event, I was browsing through the auction items and saw that Mr. Adamowicz had donated one of his books and signed it for the SF event. By all accounts he was a good guy and someone who promoted tolerance and spoke out against the authoritarian tendencies of the current government. As a student, he was part of the Solidarity protests against the authoritarian communist regime in the 80s.
posted by naju at 4:39 PM on January 14 [21 favorites]


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posted by Sublimity at 4:51 PM on January 14


Okay, I watched the Daily Mail video of the actual event. It seems like they freeze the *video* at the point you can see the assassin rushing onto the stage (the audio keeps going but isn't gruesome); then it jumps forward to the assassin holding his knife up triumphantly as people start to react; but they DO then show the mayor lying facedown on the stage. So, decide for yourself based on that.
posted by uosuaq at 4:51 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


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posted by SNACKeR at 9:02 PM on January 14


May God have Mercy.

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posted by riverlife at 9:57 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Monday evening people had gathered for vigils all over the country, mostly in silence.

There will be a day of national mourning in the next few days, most likely on the still unknown date of his funeral.

The mayor's family was out of the country during the event. He had come early from the trip to participate in the charity drive and they learned about the attack while still abroad.

He had been mayor for 20 years and I voted for him in the last election. Unlike in other cities where protesters were harassed or arrested, protesters in Gdansk could always feel safe. He was regarded as a safeguard against the abuse of law by the current government as people knew he would never go along with the Law and Justice regime.

There has to be a new election within 14 days.
posted by M. at 11:21 PM on January 14 [24 favorites]


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posted by ltl at 12:23 AM on January 15


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Agata Pyzik (a left-wing Polish journalist, and author of an interesting book about culture clashes in the post-Communist countries) had some context in her Twitter feed, though she seems to have locked it down.
posted by acb at 12:59 AM on January 15 [4 favorites]


The new mayoral election is to be set in motion within 14 days, but then law gives 60 days for the actual election. I saw rumours that PIS (right-wingers currently in central power) would appoint a city commissioner from their own party to get ahead in the city polls, but thankfully they've now appointed Adamowicz's trusted deputy, Aleksandra Dulkiewicz, who should be a shoo-in for the next 20 years if she wants it.

It's hard to explain just how important Gdańsk is in recent Polish history. After World War II the deported German residents were replaced by an influx of people from areas that weren't eastern Poland anymore, and they mixed with remaining sailors/shipbuilders/merchants/scientists and local Kaszëbi to create the most stubborn and independent city in Poland. You can't cut off a port city from contact with the rest of Europe, and many historians date the fall of Communism in Poland from the 1970 strike, followed by Solidarity and the 1988 strikes that brought Communists to the table to actually negotiate a regime change. Most large Polish cities are liberal, but Gdańsk is in a category of its own, and those protests were the training ground for generations of Polish politicians, including the current president of the European Council, a proud Kaszëbe himself.

My entire family are Gdańsk-adjacent, and I was born a kilometre away from where Adamowicz fell. Gdańsk people are just stunned, by both the senselessness of it and the clear links to right wing hate speech - the murderer was literally screaming about Civic Platform, our Democrat-equivalents. Anne Applebaum made the connection between Adamowicz and what she wrote earlier about Jo Cox. I'm just wondering how many more people will die in incidents like that.

For now, I'm cheering myself up by watching the videos of giant crowds holding vigils in every major Polish city, in the piercing cold. And people on social media kicking Owsiak into rescinding his resignation from WOŚP leadership, because that guy's been doing it for 27 years and it shouldn't end like that.

(Also good news: even before the assassination, WOŚP was heading for another record intake - the total for 2018 was 126 million PLN, and by the end of Sunday they were ahead of 2018 by 11 million already. That's a lot of children's hospitals with new cutting edge equipment, a lot of first aid training, a lot of lives saved.)
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