Nationalist march banned in Warsaw amid fears of violence

Blanche Robertson
November 9, 2018

In the past two years it has attracted more than 50,000 people.

President Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki had originally said they planned to take part in Sunday's 100th anniversary march but decided not to, because the organisers could not guarantee that offensive banners would not appear, our correspondent says.

Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz said Wednesday her decision is meant to end the "aggressive nationalism" that has been a feature of far-right events for the past decade on the November 11 national holiday.

At a march in Warsaw previous year, some nationalists carried racist and anti-Islamic calling for a "White Europe", and white supremacist symbols like the Celtic Cross.

A rally is held annually in the capital on November 11 to commemorate the anniversary of Poland's independence at the end of World War One.

A year ago, 60,000 people took part in the nationalist march, amid chants of "Pure Poland, white Poland". "Everyone is invited, come only with red-and-white flags", he said on Twitter. "Poland's 100th anniversary of independence shouldn't look like this, hence my decision to forbid it".

Poland's conservative government had already failed to persuade organisers to carry only national flags.

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.

The streets of Warsaw risk becoming a battleground for neo-fascists and for Poland's European Union reputation on Sunday (11 November) after local authorities banned a far-right march.

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Trump told a White House news conference the change was "because of trips that are being made", but did not elaborate on these. The State Department said the talks would be rescheduled "when our respective schedules permit". "And I'll leave it at that".

Earlier this week Gronkiewicz-Waltz said she would consider banning the march "if there was any element of hatred", according to local Polish broadcaster TVN24.

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.

Another divisive issue has been a statue being unveiled Saturday of the late President Lech Kaczynski in a central Warsaw square.

Kaczynski, who was killed in a 2010 plane crash in Russian Federation, was the twin brother of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the head of the current ruling party, Law and Justice.

Meanwhile, a controversial statue of the late president Lech Kaczynski was installed in a central Warsaw square ahead of its weekend unveiling as part of the centennial celebrations.

While Poles united in mourning the tragedy that took his life and 95 others, including the first lady, they are deeply divided on whether he deserves such heroic status. Pro-government provincial authorities were in favor.

"For a year, no indictment has been made regarding the events at the Independence March in 2017, although the prosecutor, which we know from the media, is in possession of expert opinion about the presence of banned ideologies at the Independence March", she said.

This year, Poland is celebrating the centenary of its independence, gained in 1918 at the end of World War I.

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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