Warsaw court nixes city ban on far-right Independence march

Warsaw court nixes city ban on far-right Independence march

Warsaw mayor bans far-right Independence Day march

Poland president calls for official state march along the same route that the far-right march was to take place.

An annual march organised by far-right groups in Poland to celebrate the countrys independence has been banned by Warsaws mayor over security concerns.

Polish army organizing security for Independence Day march

Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz said the event, which in previous years has attracted nationalists from all over the world, would not be allowed to go ahead.

“In June, I issued a letter to Minister [of Interior Joachim] Brudzinski, proposing to jointly secure the events organised in Warsaw on November 11. My letter was completely ignored,” Gronkiewicz-Waltz said during a press conference on Wednesday, adding that the city has “already suffered because of aggressive nationalism”.

The Independence March has been held annually since 2010. Last year, the event, attended by 60,000 people, sparked international outrage due to the presence of racist, homophobic and anti-immigrant slogans.

Chants included “The whole Poland sings with us: F*** off with the refugees”, “Not red, not rainbow but national Poland”, “One nation across the borders”, and “F*** Antifa”.

The Independence March association said the event will go ahead as planned on Sunday despite the ban.

“The Independence March will take place. The legal team of the Independence March association is currently preparing an appeal to the ban by Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz,” Tomasz Kalinowski, the groups representative, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

Following the mayors decision, Polands President Andrzej Duda announced an official state march will take place on Sunday and will follow the same route as the planned Independence March.

A statement on the presidents website said the banning caused “an unnecessary escalation of emotions that could additionally affect the celebrations of regaining independence by Poland” and he, along with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, was putting on the alternate march as a show of unity.

“We cordially invited Polish women and men, all citizens and all groups to participate in the march,” he said.

Last month, the European Parliament issued a resolution calling on member countries to take action against hate speech and neo-fascist violence in Europe.

The Independence March was cited as an example of this trend and Warsaws mayor Gronkiewicz-Waltz also referred to the lack of legal charges following the event.

“For a year, no indictment has been made regarding the events at the Independence March in 2017, although the prosecutor, which we know from the media, is in possession of expert opinion about the presence of banned ideologies at the Independence March,” she said.

Damian Kita, the Marchs spokesman, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that around 250,000 people were expected to attend the march, claiming that this years event would be peaceful.

“Because of this special anniversary, the 100th anniversary of regaining independence by Poland, we wanted to close this passing century under the slogan God, honour, homeland. We decided that no other slogan would better summarise the Polish fight for freedom,” Kita told Al Jazeera.

next Image 1 of 2FILE – In this Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, file photo, Demonstrators burn flares and wave Polish flags during the annual march to commemorate Polands National Independence Day in Warsaw, Poland. Thousands of nationalists marched in Warsaw on Polands Independence Day holiday, taking part in an event that was organized by far-right groups. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW, Poland – Poland's Defense Ministry will handle security during an Independence Day march this weekend in Warsaw as police are staging mass walkouts in a pay dispute that has created concerns about keeping people safe.

Over the past decade, radical nationalists have staged marches featuring racist banners and rioting on Nov.11 as Poles celebrate their nation's independence, regained at the end of World War I after more than a century of foreign rule.

With security concerns running high, Warsaw's mayor on Wednesday banned the nationalists' march, and the president's and prime minister's offices quickly announced plans for an inclusive state march in its place.

Michal Dworczyk, chief of the Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki's chancellery, said that the Defense Ministry, in charge of the army, will organize security at events marking the centenary of Polish independence on Sunday.

In recent days many police officers — up to 60 percent of the force in some places — have gone on sick leave to protests their pay, raising concerns about how it will be possible to secure the march in Warsaw along with many other events across the nation on Sunday.

Another divisive issue has been a statue being unveiled Saturday of the late President Lech Kaczynski in a central Warsaw square. At nearly 7 meters (23 feet) it towers over a nearby monument of the national hero Marshal Jozef Pilsudski, the statesman who led Poland in regaining its independence a century ago.

Kaczynski, who was killed in a 2010 plane crash in Russia, was the identical twin of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the head of the right-wing Law and Justice party currently in power.

While Poles united in mourning the tragedy that took his life and 95 others, including the first lady, they are deeply divided on whether he deserves such heroic status.

In another development, the president signed a law late Wednesday that makes next Monday a day off work for Poles since the holiday falls on a Sunday.

Pro-business lawmakers and many in the business community say the last-minute organization of a day off is causing disruptions and chaos and warn it will affect their bottom line.


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