Polish Far-right Independence Day March Defies Warsaw Ban
WARSAW: Thousands of people took part in an annual far-right march in Warsaw to mark Poland’s Independence Day on Wednesday, defying a ban imposed by city hall due to coronavirus restrictions.
Planned as a drive through the capital’s main arteries to circumvent the ban, the march spilled into the streets, with pedestrians carrying red-and-white Polish flags, firing flares and holding up banners that said “Our civilisation, our rules”.
The annual event has become a friction point between far-right groups and supporters of the nationalist government of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on one side, and their liberal opponents on the other.
Authorities in Warsaw, which is governed by a centrist mayor, accused the state-run police force of facilitating the march.
“The law is being broken here,” said Karolina Galecka, a city hall spokeswoman. “Police have spent 12 hours preparing to secure the march, we were not informed about this … and at this point you could say the police are co-organising it.”
Isolated scuffles broke out between police in riot gear and protesters, however. The police said on Twitter some flares had been confiscated and participants were being informed that their gathering was illegal.
A far-right lawmaker called on protesters to “rebel in the name of values and national unity”.
“The left tells you it is offering freedom. What kind of freedom is it? It’s freedom to drink, take drugs and have free sex. That’s all the freedom they have to offer,” Robert Winnicki said, surrounded by a crowd which broke into chants of “God, honour, fatherland”.
Cars snaked along a major bridge in Warsaw, honking their horns, surrounded by crowds of pedestrians, some carrying religious symbols or Polish flags.
Before the march, groups of motorcyclists revved their engines, sending clouds of smoke into the air.
A truck with a banner “No to Jewish demands” also appeared, in a reference to far-right groups’ opposition to any return of property taken from Jews during the Holocaust.
Another truck bore the slogan “Normal family – strong Poland”, a reference to the opposition of right-wing parties in Poland to LGBT rights.
Social tensions have been on the rise in Poland, amid a deepening polarisation spurred by the government’s efforts to instil conservative values.
Warsaw has also seen several massive protests in recent weeks, sparked by a ruling by the Constitutional Court which introduced a near-total ban on abortion in the predominantly Catholic nation.