'Communists will be hanging': Nationalist march commemorates Poland's Independence Day
A nationalist march is underway in Warsaw to commemorate Poland's Independence Day, with authorities bracing themselves for a crowd of around 50,000. Marches in recent years have turned violent, with police using rubber bullets and water cannons.
The Independence March – an annual event marking the anniversary of the country gaining autonomy from Russia, Prussia, and Austria in 1918, following 123 years of partitions – is organized by the National Front Group. It is seen as a showcase for anti-EU politicians who are seeking to revive Polish nationalism. Such politicians accuse the EU of being the biggest threat to the country's sovereignty.
The march was organized under the slogan “Poland for Poles. Poles for Poland,” which is an allusion to a famous anti-Semitic slogan from before World War II.
Marching through the streets on Wednesday, the protesters shouted: “On the trees, instead of leaves, Communists will be hanging,” according to reports on social media.
A nationalist leader shouted: “God, honor, motherland!” while the crowd chanted “Poland for Poles.”
Video footage showed flag-waving protesters with flares and firecrackers on Warsaw's Poniatowski Bridge.
Police in riot gear closed of streets in central Warsaw ahead of the march, anticipating an attendance of around 50,000.
Although marches in previous years have turned violent, Ewa Gawor, director of the city’s security and crisis management office, told a news conference on Tuesday that authorities have “assurances from the organizers that this is going to be a calm march this time. Let’s hope that this is going to be the case.”
Last year, police used water cannon and rubber bullets to disperse a group of masked rioters who broke away from the demonstration and hurled stones and flares, destroying traffic signs and bus stops, Bloomberg reported. One year prior, a guard's booth was burnt down near the Russian embassy and clashes left 12 officers injured. Three years ago, a cameraman was beaten and 176 arrests were made.
Warsaw brought in additional law enforcers ahead of the march and have “several thousand” officers on hand, according to police spokesman Mariusz Mrozek. He said police are deploying helicopters to monitor the area.