Saturday, 18 November, 2017

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

Polen | Tausende Nationalisten feiern den polnischen Unabhängigkeitstag in Warschau Poland celebrates Independence Day
Howard Terry | 13 November, 2017, 02:09

Prior to 1918, Poland had been partitioned among its neighbours and wiped off the map of Europe for more than 120 years.

Police estimated the crowd at 60,000, and photos of the throngs in the Polish capital, including neo-fascists in balaclavas, marching in a haze of red smoke from firecrackers, provided dramatic images from a country where millions of people died in concentration camps in World War II.

The event was reportedly organised to coincide with Poland's Independence Day and a number of well known far-right leaders from all over Europe, allegedly including former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson, were there. The words were taken from an old Polish religious song that US President Donald Trump quoted from during a visit to Warsaw earlier this year.

"We are proud that so many Poles have chose to take part in a celebration connected to the Independence Day holiday", he said. Many were young men, some with their faces covered or with beer bottles in hand, but families and older Poles also participated.

They were campaigning for a "white Europe", as well as spreading messages about "standing against liberals" and "defending Christian values".

One of the lead organizations behind the nationalists march is the National Radical Camp, which has previously taken to the streets to protest against Muslim immigration, gay rights, the European Union and anything it considers undermines Polish Catholic values.

The xenophobic, fascist, and anti-refugee march is an annual event that has emerged as a key rallying point for far-right groups across the continent.

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

At a 6 p.m. news conference, after the march ended, Interior Minister Mariusz Błaszczak said: "There were no incidents". Despite the common slogan "We want God", the protesters set up quite aggressively.

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".

'For me it's important to support the anti-fascist coalition, and to support fellow democrats, who are under pressure in Poland today'.

But many argued the day had been "hijacked" by racist groups, with an "anti-fascist" counter-protest attracting around 2,000 people. For months, Warsaw and the EU have been in a tense standoff over changes to Poland's court system that the European Commission says are undermining the rule of law.

The conservative tack taken by the country's ruling PiS party, including anti-migrant and pro-logging reforms, has put it increasingly at odd with Brussels.

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