Poles em­brace pa­tri­otic na­tion­al­ism

In­de­pen­dence Day brings out thou­sands or­ga­nized by far-right groups

Las Vegas Review-Journal (Sunday) - - WORLD - By Vanessa Gera

WAR­SAW, Poland — Tens of thou­sands of na­tion­al­ists marched in a demon­stra­tion or­ga­nized by far­right groups in War­saw on Satur­day, as Poles cel­e­brated their coun­try’s in­de­pen­dence day.

The far-right march was one of many events mark­ing Poland’s re­birth as a na­tion in 1918 af­ter be­ing wiped off the map for 123 years. Ear­lier in the day, Pres­i­dent An­drzej Duda presided over state cer­e­monies also at­tended by Euro­pean Union pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk, a for­mer Pol­ish prime min­is­ter.

But the march has be­come the largest In­de­pen­dence Day event in re­cent years, over­shad­ow­ing of­fi­cial state ob­ser­vances and other pa­tri­otic events. Some par­tic­i­pants ex­pressed sym­pa­thy for xeno­pho­bic or white su­prem­a­cist ideas, with one ban­ner read­ing, “White Europe of brotherly na­tions.”

Par­tic­i­pants marched un­der the slo­gan “We Want God,” words from an old Pol­ish re­li­gious song that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump quoted from dur­ing a visit to War­saw ear­lier this year. Speak­ers spoke of stand­ing against liberals and de­fend­ing Chris­tian val­ues.

Many car­ried the na­tional white­and-red flag as oth­ers set off flares and fire­crack­ers, filling the air with red smoke. Some also car­ried ban­ners de­pict­ing a falanga, a far-right sym­bol dat­ing to the 1930s.

Po­lice es­ti­mated that 60,000 peo­ple took part, and said there were no re­ports of vi­o­lence. Many were young men, some with their faces cov­ered or with beer bot­tles in hand, but fam­i­lies and older Poles also par­tic­i­pated.

The march has be­come one of the largest such demon­stra­tion in Europe, and on Satur­day it drew far-right lead­ers from else­where in Europe, in­clud­ing Tommy Robin­son from Bri­tain and Roberto Fiore from Italy.

State broad­caster TVP, which re­flects the con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment’s line, called it a “great march of pa­tri­ots,” and in its broad­casts de­scribed the event as one that drew mostly reg­u­lar Poles ex­press­ing their love of Polands, not ex­trem­ists.

“It was a beau­ti­ful sight,” In­te­rior Min­is­ter Mar­iusz Blaszczak said. “We are proud that so many Poles have de­cided to take part in a cel­e­bra­tion con­nected to the In­de­pen­dence Day hol­i­day.”

A smaller coun­ter­protest by an anti-fas­cist move­ment also took place. Or­ga­niz­ers kept the two groups apart to pre­vent vi­o­lence.

In­de­pen­dence Day marks Poland re­gain­ing its sovereignty at the end of World War I af­ter be­ing par­ti­tioned and ruled since the late 18th cen­tury by Rus­sia, Prus­sia and the Aus­tro-Hun­gar­ian Em­pire.

Duda over­saw cer­e­monies at the Tomb of the Un­known Soldier, walk­ing past a mil­i­tary guard be­fore the rais­ing of the flags and can­non salutes.

Czarek Sokolowski The As­so­ci­ated Press

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

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