Poland's police block meeting points on 16th day of protests

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WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s police were trying to prevent anti-government protesters from gathering anew late Friday, the 16th straight day of nationwide demonstrations triggered by a court ruling that further tightened one of Europe's strictest abortion laws.

In Warsaw, police vans and officers blocked access to the protest's downtown meeting point, forcing a few hundred protesters to seek another location. Police used loudspeakers to warn that participation in gatherings is banned during the COVID-19 pandemic and can entail prison terms. On previous days they were checking participants' documents and taking down their names.

In a separate protest, owners of businesses that were ordered closed due to pandemic restrictions gathered before the offices of the ruling right-wing Law and Justice party in Warsaw with demands of financial support. The nation of some 38 million is seeing a spike in daily new infections, that reached some 27,000 Friday.

Protests were also held in other cities and towns such as Szczecin and Zakopane, with more planned over the weekend.

The “Women's Strike” rights organization that has been leading the daily protests said on its website that police have been trying to intimidate leaders and talk them out of further actions.

The protests, by predominantly young people demanding greater rights for women and the conservative government's resignation were triggered by an Oct.22 ruling by a top court that banned abortions of fetuses with congenital defects.

It did not change provisions that permit abortions when pregnancy threatens the woman's heath or results from crime like rape or incest.

The Associated Press