World Media

Poland Independence Day: Thousands take part in far-right rally

Image Demonstrators in Warsaw on Saturday

One of the lead organizations behind the nationalists march is the National Radical Camp, which has previously taken to the streets to protest against Muslim immigration, gay rights, the European Union and anything it considers undermines Polish Catholic values.

There were also many families and older people in attendance.

Fascists and white supremacists descended on Warsaw Saturday to mark Poland's independence day by chanting Neo-Nazi slogans.

Some of the ideas portrayed were in support of Polish Catholic values, with slogans such as "We Want God" and "Catholic Poland, not secular".

But in the past few years, the holiday has been overshadowed by the far-right march and fears of violence.

Supporters of the country's governing conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party took part in the annual march, which takes place alongside other events. Some 2,000 people gathered to condemn the nationalists and organizers largely kept the two groups apart.

Among them was a rally organized by the far-right National-Radical Camp (ONR), the National Movement (RN) and the All Polish Youth (MW), which trace their roots back to anti-Semitic groups active before the Second World War.

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 Poland, not extremists.

Mariusz Blaszczak, the country's interior minister, labelled the event as a "beautiful sight".

Many people in the crowd told local and worldwide media they were not part of the radical-nationalist groups, but were attending in celebration of Independence Day. "There's no party in the Polish parliament that wants Poland to leave the EU", Szydlo told a foreign policy conference in Warsaw.

But main march participant Kamil Staszalek warned against making generalisations and said he was marching to "honour the memory of those who fought for Poland's freedom".

In previous years, there were violent clashes between the marchers and anti-fascist demonstrators but this year thousands of police sealed off the streets, as well as the central Warsaw Poniatowski Bridge, and there was no contact with any protesters against the march.

However, Andy Eddles, a Brit who has lived in Poland for 27 years, said: "I'm shocked that they're allowed to demonstrate on this day". "For me it's important to support the anti-fascist coalition and to support fellow democrats, who are under pressure in Poland today".

An official ceremony was hosted elsewhere in Warsaw by President Andrzej Duda.