Violence mars Independence Day celebrations in Poland

Violence mars Independence Day celebrations in Poland

Police used tear gas and arrested over 100 on the streets of Warsaw, Sunday, to control a nationalist demonstration during Polish Independence Day celebrations.


As the nationalist march, organised by All-Polish Youth and the National Radical Camp (ONR), set off from the Dmowski roundabout in the centre of Warsaw – named after the 1930s Polish nationalist leader Roman Dmowski – flares, stones and bricks were thrown at police by ia crowd that included masked demonstrators.


Police responded with rounds of tear gas to control the crowd, which was several thousands strong at that point.


One of the organisers of the nationalist march, All-Polish Youth's Robert Winnicki, said that brawls occurred with police after masked men appeared “and attacked the police cordon and then fled”.


He claimed the men were not part of the march.


Nationalists held up banners reading “Down with the European union”, “Fight for Polish Independence” and [Prime Minister] Donald [Tusk] is a moron” as the police and demonstrators clashed.


The violence is a repeat of rioting which broke out during Independence Day one year ago, injuring 

several demonstrators and police.


'Together for Independence'


Earlier, President Bronislaw Komorowski led a “Together for Independence" march - in celebration of when Poland regained sovereignty in 1918 after over a century of partition by Prussian, Russian and Austrian empires – accompanied by government leaders and an estimated 20,000 supporters.


During a speech at the vast Pilsudski Square in Warsaw, Presisent Komorowski appealed for an end to increasingly bitter political disputes between parties in Poland.


“I appeal to all political party leaders,” Komorowski said. “Let us ask ourselves: what are we doing to preserve mutual respect, dialogue and a vision of a common culture; what is paramount and more important than all disputes and quarrels? This is a matter of solidarity and respect for the homeland, the Polish state. We must not squander this respect.”


Speaker of the lower house of parliament, Ewa Kopacz, praised the “great atmosphere” of President Komorowski's march.


"I think we have waited a long time for such an atmosphere. The march today let people of different political orientations go hand in hand and celebrate," she said.


The atmosphere was not so great at the beginning of the nationalist march at around 15.30 CET, Sunday, however.


A cameraman working for the TVP public broadcaster was beaten up and his equipment damaged near the Dmowski Roundabout, said reporter Kamil Dziubka.


Several policemen have also been reported to have been injured, including one who was hit on the head by a bottle and another who was hit on the leg by a paving slab.


The nationalist march was delayed by 40 minutes after the violence as organisers had talks with police. The march then proceeded towards a statue of the late nationalist leader Roman Dmowski about one kilometre away from the centre of the city.


Meanwhile, the anti-fascist march in opposition to the nationalists, arrived at Warsaw's Old Town around 17.00 CET, with police reporting “several incidents” occurring.


Video appeared on youtube shortly after, showing the extent of the violence during the nationalist demonstration. Marshals can be seen trying to regain some control of the situation.


Last week, Polish MPs passed legislation making organisers of marches financially responsible if there is any violence at demonstrations, following violence at last year's Independence Day marches. The new law also bans flares on demos.


But Sunday's demonstrations were organised before the new law came into effect on 9 November, so the new, stricter, rules did not apply this Independence Day. (pg)








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