Poland de­fends march as act of pa­tri­o­tism

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - WORLD NEWS - VANESSA GERA

WAR­SAW, Poland — Poland’s For­eign Min­istry said Mon­day that it strongly con­demns racist, anti-Semitic and xeno­pho­bic ideas, but in­sisted that a large week­end march by na­tion­al­ists in War­saw was largely an ex­pres­sion of pa­tri­otic feel­ing.

The min­istry said that the march Sat­ur­day on the In­de­pen­dence Day hol­i­day was “a great cel­e­bra­tion of Poles, dif­fer­ing in their views, but united around the com­mon val­ues of free­dom and loy­alty to an in­de­pen­dent home­land.”

The event was or­ga­nized by groups that trace their roots to rad­i­cal na­tion­al­ist pre-Sec­ond World War anti-Semitic groups. About 60,000 peo­ple took part, in­clud­ing fam­i­lies. But there were also young men car­ry­ing ban­ners with mes­sages in­clud­ing “White Eu­rope of broth­erly na­tions.”

Some car­ried the Celtic cross, which is used by some white supremi­cists, and there were re­ports that peo­ple chanted slo­gans against Jews and had anti-Is­lam ban­ners.

Po­lice de­tained 45 counter-pro­test­ers who blocked the march’s path, but didn’t act against any of those ex­press­ing ex­trem­ist views.

On Mon­day, a small group of civic rights ac­tivists protested what they saw as the au­thor­i­ties’ fail­ure to re­spond prop­erly to the be­hav­iour of the na­tion­al­ists. In a rally in front of city hall they chanted “War­saw free from fas­cism!” One man held a ban­ner say­ing, “Poland, wake up. Fas­cism is com­ing.” They then pro­ceeded to a po­lice sta­tion to protest there, too.

Is­raeli For­eign Min­istry spokesman Em­manuel Nahshon called the event “a dan­ger­ous march of ex­treme and racist el­e­ments.”

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

The Pol­ish For­eign Min­istry said it wasn’t jus­ti­fi­able to de­fine the march based on some “in­ci­den­tal” el­e­ments. Un­der­lin­ing its op­po­si­tion to ex­trem­ism, the min­istry re­called that it had op­posed a visit to Poland by Richard Spencer, the lead­ing Amer­i­can white na­tion­al­ist. Spencer was orig­i­nally to have at­tended a con­fer­ence in War­saw a day be­fore the march, but he was taken off the sched­ule af­ter the min­istry said it didn’t want him in the coun­try.


Demon­stra­tors burn flares and wave Pol­ish flags dur­ing the an­nual march to com­mem­o­rate Poland’s Na­tional In­de­pen­dence Day in War­saw, Poland, on Sat­ur­day.

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