Published: Mon, November 13, 2017
Industry | By Dora Warner

Right-wing nationalists march on Poland's independence day

Right-wing nationalists march on Poland's independence day

An annual nationalist rally in Poland drew all-time high attendance Saturday as tens of thousands of young, angry demonstrators marched through the streets of Warsaw brandishing Nazi and white supremacist slogans and calling for an "Islamic holocaust".

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

Spurred by speakers pledging their support for a single-faith, Catholic Poland, 60,000 people gathered in the capital for the "March of Independence" singing the country's national anthem while raising handheld flares.

Numerous marchers were young men, some with their faces covered or with beer bottles in hand, throwing red smoke bombs.

The three main sponsors of the march were All Poland Youth, National Movement and National Radical Camp, which is known by its acronym ONR.

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The day marks the country regaining independence 123 years after it was carved up by Tsarist Russia, Prussia, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

State broadcaster TVP, which reflects the conservative government's line, called the demonstration 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.

Many people in the crowd told local and global media they were not part of the radical-nationalist groups, but were attending in celebration of Independence Day.

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

The two groups were kept separate by police. In what seems to be the only isolated episode of violence, white nationalists at one point kicked and pushed a group of women who were carrying a banner that read, "Stop Fascism".

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Polish nationalists carry a banner translating to "we want God" during a march in Warsaw.

'I'd say some people here do have extreme views, maybe even 30 percent of those marching, but 70 percent are simply walking peacefully, without shouting any fascist slogans, ' he told the AFP. "For me it's important to support the anti-fascist coalition and to support fellow democrats, who are under pressure in Poland today".

"No politician in Poland has ever had nor will ever have a monopoly on patriotism".

The Warsaw president, Andrzej Duda, hosted a ceremony with all previous presidents, as well as European Union president Donald Tusk, while the march took place, Guardian reports.

Relations between Brussels and Warsaw have worsened in recent months because of the PiS government's controversial court reforms, large-scale logging in a primeval forest and refusal to welcome migrants.

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Marches were held in cities across the country, as were regional activities including a "Happy Parade" in Wrocław, southwestern Poland, a "Patriotic Parade" in Kraków, southern Poland, and "National Colours" dip in the Baltic Sea in Szczecin, northwestern Poland.

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