Thousands join far-right march in Warsaw on Poland’s Independence Day (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)

Thousands join far-right march in Warsaw on Poland’s Independence Day (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)
Loud, racist and extreme-right activists have hijacked Poland’s Independence Day celebrations in Warsaw. United under the “We Want God” slogan, nationalist activists held banners which read “Death to the enemies of the homeland,” amongst others.

The so-called ”Independence March,” to celebrate Poland’s rebirth as a nation in 1918, was organized partly by neo-fascist groups such as National-Radical Camp (ONR), the National Movement (RN) and the All-Polish Youth (MW) groups. The nationalist rally, according to police estimates, drew a crowd of roughly 60,000 activists, with some youths wearing balaclavas.

Highlighting an important element of Polish nationalism and its strong identification with the Roman Catholic Church, thousands assembled under the theme, "We want God," as far-right activists marched through the streets of Warsaw.

Seemingly spurred on by the Polish government’s reluctance to take in refugees under EU quotas, the far-right activists also highlighted their Islamophobic, xenophobic and nationalistic leanings by carrying banners depicting Islam as a Trojan horse. Other signs read, “White Europe of brotherly nations.”

Far-right supporters also held up flags with the emblem of the National Armed Forces and the words, “Death to the enemies of the homeland.” One of the activists told TVP news he was taking part “to remove Jewry from power.”

At the sound of drums, chants of “Catholic Poland, not secular” and “Honor and glory to heroes, white and red invincible colors,” rang out, with white and red Polish flags fluttering throughout.  The marchers turned the sky pink after igniting smoke flares and firecrackers, with more slogans, “Glory to the heroes,” “Pride, pride, national pride!” and “God, Honor, Motherland,” punctuating the march.

About 6,000 policemen were deployed to keep public order throughout the city. Warsaw seen a number of marches and events, such as a counter-protest organized by the anti-fascist movement. Around 1,500 people attended that rally which comprised members from a dozen or so left-wing organizations.

Holding banners with the wordings: “For your freedom and ours,” “Women against fascism,” “Nationalism is a disease,” and “Class struggle, not national,” activists were on the streets to counter nationalism, racism, sexism and other kinds of hatred.

While no major incidents were reported throughout the day, Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak was asked to comment on the slogans scrawled on the banners of the extreme-right procession. Claiming that he did not see the banners personally, Blaszczak urged journalists not to “make such obvious associations.”

Instead, he called the Independence March “a beautiful sight.” “We are proud that so many Poles have decided to take part in a celebration connected to the Independence Day holiday,” the minister added according to AP.

Celebrated on November 11 each year, Poland’s Independence Day marks the restoration of Poland's sovereignty as the Second Polish Republic in 1918, after 123 years of partition by the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia, and the Habsburg Empire. Polish independence was confirmed by the Western powers in the Treaty of Versailles, which officially ended World War I.