Polish Eurosceptic leaders and the far right celebrate the centenary of independence

WARSAW (Reuters) – Polish Eurosceptic leaders marked a century of national independence on Sunday with more than 200,000 people marching in the capital during a parade of far-right groups and neo-fascist activists. Italy.

People carry flags and flares by singing the Polish national anthem during a march marking the 100th anniversary of Poland's independence in Warsaw, Poland on November 11, 2018. REUTERS / Kacper Pempel

The march is at the center of the debate over whether the ruling party, the Party of Justice and Justice (PiS), promotes groups from the fascist and anti-Semitic movement. The party took power in 2015 and since then Poland has become increasingly isolated in Europe, accused of leaning towards an authoritarian regime.

Some demonstrators in Warsaw chanted "Far from the EU", but no signs of white supremacy banners were visible during last year's march.

Government officials marched away from the main protesters, far from any overt manifestation of nationalism, and were kept apart by the security forces.

"Thank you for coming here, for Poland, and for bringing the white and red (Polish) flag that saw our fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers shed their blood," he said. President Andrzej Duda, PiS ally, at the beginning of the meeting. March.

"There is room for everyone under our flag," he said.

Several hundred meters behind the government column, participants waved banners saying "God, honor, homeland" and launched red torches, covering the section of the smoke with smoke.

Some chanted: "Pride, pride, national pride" and "Yesterday was Moscow, today it is Brussels, stripping us of our sovereignty".

The mayor of the city of Warsaw has attempted to ban for nearly a decade a far right march organized on November 11 each year, but a court rejected it.

The government then agreed with the organizers, after last minute negotiations, to hold a joint event marking the 100th anniversary of Poland's declaration of independence in 1918 after Russia's 18th century partition. Austria and Germany.

"This was the biggest demonstration of Free Poles in a free Poland of all time," government spokeswoman Joanna Kopcinska told the PAP news agency.


Last year, the far-right annual march was dotted with racist banners such as "Pureblood, clear minded" and "Europe will be white or uninhabited".

These slogans have caused concern over the rise of xenophobia in Poland at a time when other European countries are also struggling with a resurgence of the far right.

PiS says that he rejects anti-Semitism and racism, but critics accuse him of discreetly taking party for the far right.

While insisting that Poland should remain in the EU, the PiS refuses to allow immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa to enter the country, and says that 39, greater decision-making power should be transferred from Brussels to national capitals.

The party draws on the frustration aroused by liberal values ​​and the anti-establishment sentiment that galvanized far-right voters in other parts of Europe. This promises more Catholic faith and patriotism in public life and more power of speech in the economy.

"Do you remember the shameful slogans of March 11 last year?" Said Central African Congressman Marcin Kierwinski on Saturday. "A year later, their authors meet with the president and the prime minister instead of a prosecutor."

Some participants wore banners with religious and anti-abortion images.

"The organizers of the March of Independence are great patriots. In our time, the youth was not so patriotic, "said Teresa Radzikowska, a 70-year-old retired from central Poland who attended the march.

Prior to the Friday night agreement with the government on the organization of a joint event, the organizers had stated that they expect March to be the biggest event in the world. far right in Europe for years.

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A foreign participant said that he came to Warsaw because Poland "did not lose its national identity".

"You did not bend to Islam or globalism," said James Goddard, who came from Leicester in central England just for the march.

On November 11, the Poles commemorate the establishment of the second Polish republic in 1918 from a territory seized by its eastern and western neighbors in the eighteenth century, made possible by the defeat of Russia, Germany and Austria during the First World War. World leaders gathered Sunday in Paris to mark the end of the war.

Additional reports by Pawel Sobczak, Kacper Pempel and Karol Witenberg, written by Justyna Pawlak; Edited by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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