By Eva Rian, International News Writer
Over 60,000 people gathered in Warsaw on Saturday, October 11, the 99th anniversary of Polish independence. However, as reported by the Guardian, these protestors were not there for the state ceremonies held early in the day by president Andrzej Duda and European council president Donald Tusk; rather, they marched with Polish flags, red smoke bombs and Christian iconography. According to Al Jazeera, typical chants included “The whole Poland sings with us: f*** off with the refugees,” “not red, not rainbow but national Poland,” “F*** Antifa.” Many held banners with nationalist and supremacist slogans denouncing same-sex marriage, equating Islam with terrorism, and promoting white Poland — “white Europe of brotherly nations, ”Clean Blood,” “We Want God.” The lattermost phrase, quoted by President Trump during his visit to Poland this year, comes from an old Polish nationalist song and was the slogan of the year’s event, according to the New York Times. Official speakers encouraged attendees to stand against liberals and the supposed decline of Christian values.
The annual march has only grown in size since it began in 2009, becoming a focus for white supremacists and far-right groups from across Europe. It stands out from other European far-right events not only in terms of sheer volume but in regards to government response. The Washington Post reports that though the governing right-wing Law and Justice party did not organize or officially promote the event, liberals allege the administration’s stance is one of public support. Radio Poland reports Polish foreign minister Waszczykowski as having referred to the march was a “valuable event” that testified to Polish patriotism. The Independent adds that Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the ruling Law and Justice party, said that while there were “unfortunate incidents” during the march, they were a “marginal problem,” possibly a provocation. According to sociologist Applebaum, while this reflects the general government drift to the right since the rise of the Law and Justice party, some support also comes from the Polish Catholic Church, as certain priests encourage the neo-fascist right. On the other hand, President Duda, who is not a member of the party, issued the strongest condemnation from the government yet, emphasizing “there is no place in Poland” for xenophobia, pathological nationalism, and anti-Semitism, and that the country must remain a land open to all who want to come together and work for the good of the nation, regardless of one’s background or ethnicity.
Specifically regarding the organizers of the march, the National Radical Camp (ONR), and whether they should be outlawed as their opposition demands, the government has maintained thus far that the decision on the matter belongs to the courts. BuzzFeed reports that while the ONR and other organizers reject the label of fascism, they do believe in “authoritarianism” and “racial separatism.” In interviews with BuzzFeed news and a Polish magazine, organizers described their ideology with statements such as “We just think it’s not efficient when everybody’s vote has equal power,” and “Ethnicity should not be mixed… A black person is not a Pole.” The organizers did publicly condemn certain white nationalist groups – such as the supporters of the Ukrainian Azov Battalion, a militia with deep neo-Nazi ties – which nonetheless joined as a “black bloc,” borrowing the tactic of covering their faces from anti-fascist activists. Such crowds at counter-demonstrations, sporting slogans such as “for our freedom and yours,” and “rainbow is the new black” were greatly outnumbered.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, November 21st print edition.
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