Thousands of people have joined anti-government demonstrations across Poland, as a divided country marked the 35th anniversary of the imposition of martial law by the then communist regime.
Leaders of the Committee for the Defence of Democracy (KOD) – which organised the “citizens’ strike” – argue that the illiberal agenda of the ruling rightwing Law and Justice party (PiS) threatens to reverse democratic gains made since 1989.
Anti-government demonstrators carrying Polish and European flags gathered at the former headquarters of the Polish Communist party and marched to the nearby headquarters of Law and Justice, in an explicit attempt to draw a connection between the authoritarian rule during the Soviet-imposed Polish People’s Republic and the current government’s ongoing attempts to control or dismantle the country’s independent democratic institutions.
The protests were condemned by Law and Justice leader Jarosław Kaczyński, who described them as “anti-state in character, in fact we are dealing with a crime”. He promised the government would attempt to “civilise” the opposition.
The anniversary is an uncomfortable one for Kaczyński; unlike thousands of other anti-Communist activists, including his twin brother Lech, he was not interned by the authorities during the imposition of martial law.
My report for the Guardian can be found here.