Poland: Thousands of far-right nationalists gather in Warsaw to march for white supremacy, anti-liberalism, and anti-Islam on Polish independence day

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

On Saturday afternoon, thousands of far-right nationalists gathered in Poland's capital Warsaw to participate in "Independence March" which was organized by far-right groups including All-Polish Youth, the National Movement, and the National-Radical Camp. Participants objected to liberalism, Islam, and some banners supported white supremacy.

The slogan of this year's Independence March was "We want god". The march, which coincided with Poland's independence day, began at 3:00 P.M. local time (1400 UTC). Marchers chanted "Great national Poland, religion is the basis of the Polish nation, Great Catholic Poland and one nation across the borders" under banners reading "We want God" and "White Europe of brotherly nations." There were also anti-leftist, anti-United States slogans as well as slogans against liberal media broadcasters.

Poland's 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." Andrzej Duda, Polish president, condemned the march and called this march a display of "sick nationalism". He also added "there is no place [for xenophobia] in Poland". Emmanuel Nahshon, spokesperson of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, called the march "a dangerous march of extreme and racist elements" and told the Associated Press, "We hope that Polish authorities will act against the organisers [...] History teaches us that expressions of racist hate must be dealt with swiftly and decisively."

Rafał Pankowski, a sociologist of the anti-extremist organization Never Again, said, "I think that most of the organisers are not very religious, either. [...] But use Christianity as a kind of identity marker, which is mostly about being anti-Islam now."

Muslims make up under one percent of Poland's population, and Poland has refused to welcome refugees.

The organizers of the march estimate more than 100,000 people attended, but the police put the number at 60,000. Antifa Warsaw (Anti-fascist Warsaw) organized a counter-march in the capital. One of the participants, lidia Domanska said about 5000 people participated in the march. Only one clash between the two groups was reported, of a man kicking women who were holding a flag reading "Stop Fascism."

The event drew people from other European countries, including Slovakia, Sweden and Hungary. 39-year-old Richard Spencer, a white supremacist from the United States, was invited to Poland by far-right groups, and he was scheduled to attend the event but did not. On October 27, Poland's Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said, "He [Spencer] should not appear publicly, and especially not in Poland." Saying Spencer's opinions "are in conflict with the legal order" of the country, Waszczykowski added, "as a country which was one of the biggest victims of Nazism, we believe that the ideas promoted by Mr Spencer and his followers could pose a threat to all those who hold dear the values of human rights and democracy".

November 11 is the anniversary of the end of World War I, after which Poland regained its status as an independent country in 1918. The Independence March was first organised in 2009 and the number of participants has grown since.