The mayor of Warsaw has banned a Polish Independence Day march planned for Sunday, due to its attraction to the far right.
This Sunday, November 11, will mark the centenary of the formation of the second Polish republic in 1918. The Polish Independence Day march, organised in part by the far right National Radical Camp, has taken place annually in Warsaw since 2008. Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz said: “Warsaw has already suffered enough due to aggressive nationalism. Poland’s 100th anniversary of independence shouldn’t look like this, hence my decision to forbid it.”
The Polish Independence Day march, which last year drew 60,000 people, has become a magnet for nationalist and xenophobic sentiments. Marchers in 2017 carried banners with slogans such as “pure blood, clear mind” and “Europe will be white or uninhabited” and chanted “Pure Poland, white Poland”; and some participants threw smoke bombs and physically attacked counter-protesters demonstrating against nationalism.
Gronkiewicz-Waltz said security was a pressing concern when considering whether to allow the march to go ahead: Polish police have been on a work-to-rule strike; while the government have not been accommodating with regard to event security. Meanwhile charges have yet to be brought against protesters who broke laws at last year’s Polish Independence Day march.
Organisers of the parade have declared their intention to march anyway with the support of Polish President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki; and have issued a legal appeal to the decision to shut down the Polish Independence Day march. Duda has announced an official, theoretically less Nazi march to be held on Sunday, with participants invited to carry only Polish flags rather than inflammatory signs.
Meanwhile the Polish parliament rushed through a law to make Monday November 12 a national holiday, to the chagrin of business groups who complained that the law, which only came into effect yesterday, did not make clear whether shops and other businesses were to be closed on the holiday.