Monday, 10 December, 2018

Poland court approves far-right 'independence march' in Warsaw

Demonstrators burn flares and wave Polish flags during the 2017 Polish independence day march Demonstrators burn flares and wave Polish flags during the 2017 Polish independence day march Credit AP
Jeannette Daniel | 09 November, 2018, 11:30

Warsaw's mayor on Wednesday prohibited a march planned this weekend by far-right groups to mark Poland's independence day centenary, but organisers vowed to defy the ban.

Krzysztof Bosak, the deputy head of the National Movement, a far-right party that is also a co-organizer, said the march would take place despite the ban, which will be appealed.

With security concerns running high, Warsaw's mayor on Wednesday banned the nationalists' march, and the president's and prime minister's offices quickly announced plans for an inclusive state march in its place.

"This is not how the celebrations should look on the 100th anniversary of regaining our independence", she said.

Blazej Spychalski, a spokesman for President Andrzej Duda, said the president and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki chose to hold the march after consulting with war veterans.

"We do not accept, we do not allow for those [far-right] groups gathering in Poland under any circumstances", Morawiecki said.

Tens of thousands of participants had been expected to attend, including far-right activists from elsewhere in Europe, with organizers claiming the event could be the biggest such march in Europe in years.

A year ago it made headlines around the world after it was led by groups carrying banners emblazoned with far-Right symbols and slogans.

Numerous protesters carried provocative banners and shouted slogans, such as "Pure blood, clear mind" and "Europe will be white or uninhabited". Authorities have warned that the march may require additional security measures due to the potential for violence. They lodged a court appeal against the decision to shut down the annual November 11 event commemorating the anniversary of Poland's independence at the end of World War I.

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The government said the defence ministry had assumed responsibility for security at the march and extremist symbols would be banned, raising the prospect of confrontations between radical groups and military personnel on the streets of Warsaw.

Chants included "The whole Poland sings with us: F*** off with the refugees", "Not red, not rainbow but national Poland", "One nation across the borders", and "F*** Antifa".

Mass walk-outs by Polish police officers in recent days also raised concerns that clashes between participants and counter-protesters could get out of hand if there were not enough officers to intervene.

A worker cleans a statue depicting late Polish president Lech Kaczynski after it was installed at a central square in Warsaw, Poland, on November 7, 2018.

However, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who heads the ruling party, condemned the racist messages during the 2017 march. The statue will be official unveiled on Saturday as part of the centennial observances marking 100 years of Polish independence.

While Poles universally mourned the deaths of the president and the 95 people who perished with him, they remain divided on how to evaluate his presidency and on whether he deserves hero status now. Pro-government provincial authorities were in favor. Even if the courts confirm her decision, we will still meet.

The end of World War I is also being marked on Sunday in Paris, where dozens of world leaders will gather, including host French President Emmanuel Macron and counterparts Donald Trump of the United States, Vladimir Putin of Russian Federation and Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In Britain, Armistice Day will be commemorated Sunday with a solemn ceremony at the Cenotaph in London that will be attended by Queen Elizabeth II.

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