60000 nationalists take to the streets for Poland's independence day celebrations

Pauline Gross
November 13, 2017

While numerous marchers carried the national white-and-red flag, some displayed banners depicting a falanga, a far-right symbol dating to the 1930s.

There were also many families and older people in attendance.

Around 60,000 people marched in Warsaw on Independence Day, some chanting anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim and anti-gay slogans.

The remnants of the movement today can been seen in the form of the National Movement (RN) party, founded in 2012, associated with several nationalist and far-right movements across the nation, including the All-Polish Youth as well as the libertarian Real Politics Union.

Some also carried banners depicting a falanga, a fascist symbol dating to the 1930s.

It attracted far-right agitators from elsewhere in Europe, including Tommy Robinson from the United Kingdom and Roberto Fiore from Italy.

The rally appears to have gained the tacit approval of the governing Law and Justice Party, but officials told local and global media that the event met all legal requirements.

Across the city a smaller counter protest was held by anti-facist groups who marched with banners reading "together against racism" and "rainbow is the new black".

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State broadcaster TVP, which reflects the conservative government's line, called it a "great march of patriots", and in its broadcasts described the event as one that drew mostly regular Poles expressing their love of Poland, not extremists.

"It was a lovely sight", Mariusz Błaszczak, Poland's interior minister, said.

As most other European countries commemorated Armistice Day to mark the end of World War I in 1918, Poles celebrated national rebirth. Organisers kept the two groups apart to prevent violence.

The slogan for this year's event was "We Want God", in line with emotional themes of the past rallies.

Polish resident Kamil Staszalek told AFP that he was marching with fellow countrymen to "honour the memory of those who fought for Poland's freedom".

In previous years, there were violent clashes between the marchers and anti-fascist demonstrators but this year thousands of police sealed off the streets, as well as the central Warsaw Poniatowski Bridge, and there was no contact with any protesters against the march.

Andy Eddles, a British language teacher who has been living in Poland for 27 years, said he was "shocked that they're allowed to demonstrate on this day".

Polish President Andrzej Duda led the formal celebrations of Polish independence day in central Warsaw. Warsaw and Brussels have been increasingly at odds on a series of issues, including the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) government's controversial court reforms.

Other reports by GizPress

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