Tens of thousands join far-right Independence Day march in Poland

Warsaw (AFP) –


Poland's far right attracted tens of thousands to a march in Warsaw on Monday to mark the country's Independence Day just weeks after making significant gains in national elections.

November 11, 1918, was not just the end of World War I but also the end of 123 years of occupation of Poland by tsarist Russia, Prussia and the Austro-Hungarian empire.

This year's march comes a month after Poland's Confederation, a new far-right libertarian coalition, won nine seats in the October 13 parliamentary elections.

The march, which was closely monitored by the police, brought together the leaders and supporters of Poland's far right, although many participants said they simply wanted to express their patriotism, waving Polish flags and shouting "God, Honour and the Motherland".

"I'm proud to be Polish and being here gives me the feeling of community with our nation," Zbyszek, a technician in his 30s from the Warsaw suburbs, told AFP.

"It's the largest patriotic, anti-globalist and politically incorrect demonstration in Europe," Krzysztof Bosak, a recently elected far-right MP, posted on Twitter.

Some marchers shouted anti-communist and homophobic slogans, while others carried religious symbols in this heavily Catholic country.

A slogan on a tent at the site of the rally denounced the Jewish community for demanding reparations. Inside, participants were invited to sign a petition against a US law that requires the State Department to monitor the progress of countries, including Poland, on the restitution of Jewish assets seized during and after World War II.

Police dispersed several counter-demonstration set up on the route of the march with a banner reading "Constitution", a reference to their opposition to constitutional reforms being pushed through by the ruling populist Law and Justice (PiS) party.

The European Commission has already opened proceedings against Poland's government over fears that the reforms will undermine the rule of law.