Poland's leaders join far-right groups on independence march

President Andrzej Duda among those appearing alongside EU flag-burners

Adam Forrest
Monday 12 November 2018 01:00
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Thousands attended march to mark national independence
Thousands attended march to mark national independence

Poland’s eurosceptic political leaders joined far-right groups as tens of thousands of people marched through the capital in a parade to mark a century of national independence.

More than 250,000 people gathered on the streets of Warsaw to mark the 100th anniversary of Poland’s rebirth as a state at the end of the First World War.

President Andrzej Duda, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and the leader of the conservative ruling party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, walked in a crowd fronted by soldiers carrying a huge flag with the words “For You Poland".

Some marchers chanted “away with the EU”, while members of the nationalist group All-Polish Youth burned the EU flag.

Others held banners stating “God, Honour, Homeland”, and red flares blanketed sections of the march with smoke.

Although there was no sign of white supremacist banners visible at last year’s 11 November event, some were seen carrying the flags of the National Radical Camp – a far-right group and one of the main march organisers.

There were also flags representing Forza Nuova, an Italian group whose leader, Roberto Fiore, describes himself as fascist.

Warsaw’s city mayor had sought to ban any far-right gatherings during the day of national celebration, but a court overruled her.

Masked members of radical right-wing groups wave flags at independence march

The government then agreed to hold a joint event in the city that would include various far-right groups.

It meant this year’s nationalist march was the focus of intense debate about whether the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) tacitly encourages groups with roots in fascist movements.

The party won power in 2015 and Poland has since become increasingly isolated in Europe amid accusations of a tilt towards authoritarian rule.

“Let this be our joint march, let it be a march for everyone, a march where everyone wants to be and feels good, marching for Poland,” said President Duda on Sunday.

Observances and fireworks were held in cities and small towns across Poland to commemorate the nation’s statehood regained at the end of the First World War, after 123 years of foreign rule.

The ceremonies in Poland coincide with world leaders gathering in Paris to mark a century since the armistice.

Additional reporting by agencies

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