Fears of violence as Polish state intervenes in nationalist march (The Guardian)

Photograph: Konrad Lembcke via Flickr

Preparations for Sunday’s centenary of the restoration of Polish independence descended into farce this week with a bewildering series of events surrounding a nationalist march due to take place in central Warsaw.

The March of Independence, organised by nationalist and far-right groups and held annually in the Polish capital on 11 November to commemorate the anniversary of the re-establishment of Poland’s independence in 1918, has grown dramatically in scale over the past decade, attracting activists from across Europe.

Last year’s event, which attracted an estimated 60,000 people, received widespread international condemnation for the presence of racist and xenophobic banners and slogans and instances of violence directed at counter-protesters. This year’s event, which was expected to attract an even bigger turnout, threatened to overshadow official state commemorations.

On Wednesday Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, Warsaw’s outgoing mayor and a leading figure in the opposition Civic Platform party, announced that the march would be banned, citing concerns over security and expressions of hatred.

The organisers of the march lodged an appeal against the ban and said they intended to march regardless. Hours after the mayor’s announcement, Andrzej Duda, Poland’s rightwing president, said the Polish state would be organising its own march at the same time and along the same route as the banned march, effectively assuming direct control of the event.

My report for the Guardian can be found here.

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