Matthew Taylor — The Guardian Nov 11, 2017
Tens of thousands of nationalist demonstrators marched through Warsaw at the weekend to mark Poland’s independence day, throwing red-smoke bombs and carrying banners with slogans such as “white Europe of brotherly nations”.
Police estimated 60,000 people took part in Saturday’s event, in what experts say was one of the biggest gathering of far-right activists in Europe in recent years.
Demonstrators with faces covered chanted “Pure Poland, white Poland!” and “Refugees get out!”. A banner hung over a bridge that read: “Pray for Islamic Holocaust.”
The march organised by far-right groups in Poland is an annual event originally to mark Poland’s independence in 1918. But according to Nick Lowles, from UK anti-extremism group Hope Not Hate, it has become an important rallying point for international far-right groups.
“The numbers attending this year seem to be bigger and, while not everyone on the march is a far-right activist or fascist, it is undoubtedly becoming more significant and is acting as a magnet for far-right groups around the world.”
Some participants marched under the slogan “We Want God!”, words from an old Polish religious song that the US president, Donald Trump, quoted during a visit to Warsaw earlier this year. Speakers encouraged attendants to stand against liberals and defending Christian values.
Many carried the national white-and-red flag while others held banners depicting a falanga, a far-right symbol dating to the 1930s. A demonstrator interviewed by state television TVP said he was on the march to “remove Jewry from power”.
Among the far-right leaders attending the march was former English Defence League leader Stephen Lennon from the UK and Roberto Fiore from Italy. It also attracted a considerable number of supporters of Poland’s governing conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party.
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 ordinary Poles expressing their love of Poland, not extremists.
“It was a beautiful sight,” the interior minister, Mariusz Błaszczak, said. “We are proud that so many Poles have decided to take part in a celebration connected to the Independence Day holiday.”
The march was one of many events marking Poland’s independence in 1918 when the country regained its sovereignty at the end of the first world war after being partitioned and ruled since the late 18th century by Russia, Prussia and the Austro-Hungarian empire.