Fascists march in Poland in one of world's largest far-right gatherings

Poland insists far-right marchers calling for 'Islamic holocaust' just sideshow to 'great celebration of Poles'

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the government's ruling party says racism and xenophobia is 'marginal problem'

Harriet Agerholm@HarrietAgerholm
Tuesday 14 November 2017 11:27

A 60,000-strong nationalist march in Warsaw which saw demonstrators tout white supremacist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic messages was largely an expression of patriotic feeling, Poland's Foreign Ministry has said.

Marchers hung a banner which said, "pray for Islamic holocaust" and carried signs with slogans like "white Europe of brotherly nations". Others chanted "pure Poland, white Poland" and "refugees get out!"

Although the country's government condemned racist and xenophobic ideas, it called the event "a great celebration of Poles, differing in their views, but united around the common values of freedom and loyalty to an independent homeland".

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the ruling Law and Justice party, said there were "unfortunate incidents" during the march, but he called them a "marginal problem."

Mr Kaczynski added that he believed there could have been a "provocation".

Without specifying who might have tried to bait the marchers, he said: "Those who want to harm Poland know how to do it."

Poland has previously accused Russia of trying to create instability in the country.

​Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said the march was "a dangerous march of extreme and racist elements".

"We hope that Polish authorities will act against the organisers," Mr Nahshon said in a statement. "History teaches us that expressions of racist hate must be dealt with swiftly and decisively."

Agnieszka Markiewicz, director of Warsaw office of the American Jewish Committee, a global advocacy group, said the march "was seriously marred by hateful, far-right throngs that threaten the core values of Poland and its standing abroad".

A small group of rights activists subsequently protested what they said was the authorities' failure to respond properly to the behaviour of the nationalists.

They protested in front of Warsaw city hall and a police station, chanting: "Warsaw free from fascism". One man held a banner saying, "Poland, wake up. Fascism is coming."

However, the Polish President issued the conservative government's strongest condemnation yet of the far-right views expressed at the march earlier this week.

He said "there is no place in Poland" for xenophobia, pathological nationalism and anti-Semitism and that the country must remain a land of open to all who want to come together and work for the good of the nation.

He added that it made no difference if a person's father was "German, Jewish, Belarusian, Russian, or whatever."

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