ZOMO

ZOMO

Zmotoryzowane Odwody Milicji Obywatelskiej (ZOMO) ("Motorized Reserves of the Citizens' Militia"), were paramilitary riot police formations during the Communist Era, in the People's Republic of Poland.

These, initially elite, units of Milicja Obywatelska (MO, former Polish police) were created to fight dangerous criminals, provide security during mass events and help in the case of natural disasters. Nevertheless, they became most notably known for an infamy gained in their brutal and sometimes lethal actions of quelling civil rights protests and riots during martial law in the early 1980s.

History

ZOMO units were created and first used in 1956, under the direct command of the President of the Council of Ministers of the Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR, Poland's communist party). Their mission statement was defined as "the protection of the nation," and their main role was as a rapid-response police force. After 1972, the duties of ZOMO included counter-terrorism (including countering aircraft hijackings), with the designated Special Platoons of the ZOMO (pl. "Plutony Specjalne").

As opposition to the communist government in Poland grew, the units were expanded to counter the growing unrest, and their role became more of anti-riot police, numbering more than 12,000 members in the late 1980s. They were equipped with BTR-60 armoured personnel carriers, tear gas and various firearms including submachine guns and automatic rifles, as well as various types of riot equipment such as batons, plastic riot shields and helmets. They wore military uniforms with the same camouflage pattern as the one used by the Polish People's Army.

Martial law

The ZOMO gained national and international infamy during the period of martial law in Poland (1981–1983). During this time period their brutal actions against peaceful protesters often affiliated with the Solidarity movement, and the subsequent lack of prosecution of those responsible for civilian deaths, were major factors in bringing down the communist regime. To parody the communist newspeak during that time they were often sarcastically called "The beating heart of the Party" (pl. "Bijące serce Partii").

Legacy

The units were disbanded in 1989, following the fall of the communist system. The word, however, remains a pejorative term used by some to denote all kinds of riot police in Poland, as in modern Poland the ZOMO units are remembered for their brutality displayed while beating protesting opponents of the communist regime.

Since 1990 several trials against former ZOMO members and their political leaders took place, most prominently in the case of the massacre in the Wujek Coal Mine where nine people where shot dead and 21 wounded by Katowice's Special Platoon in 1981. [http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/05/31/europe/poland.php]

ee also

* OMON units in the Soviet Union (and Russia)
* People's Militias (Czechoslovakia)

External links

* [http://www.polskaludowa.com/dokumenty/milicja/proporczyki_ZOMO.htm ZOMO unit Patches by Region]
* [http://www.zomoza.kgb.pl Zomoza page about ZOMO] (in Polish)


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