Warsaw – Independence day

Video credit Euronews

SEVERAL demolished cars, destroyed pavement, uprooted trees, a burned rainbow, 12 wounded police officers and over one hundred arrested – that is the summary of the Independence March in Warsaw on the 11th November.

The March of 11th November – like last year and the year before – was organised by two far-right groups, The National Radical Camp,  which takes its name and logo from a fascist, pre-war Polish party, and the All Polish Youth, which describes itself as a nationalist-Catholic organization and fears that homosexuality might one day destroy the Polish Republic.

Organised to commemorate the end of World War I – the day when Poland regained its place on the map of Europe after having been wiped off for 123 years – is now anything but a peaceful and reflective procession. The police used pepper gas and rubber bullets to disperse the protesters. The March was called off by city authorities after about 100 people were detained and 19 injured.

Fascists, nationalists, and soccer hooligans assembled for what looked like one of the largest far-right demonstrations to ever grace Europe’s streets, with an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 people. The police reinforced Warsaw with thousands of officers, but the attendants still managed to attack and torch the symbols of everything they hate: gays, lefties, and Russians.

The protesters attacked two Warsaw squats and burnt a rainbow structure in the city centre. Rainbow effigies are often associated as a landscape symbol for supporting gay rights. The next target was the Russian Embassy, where the protesters threw Molotov cocktails, firecrackers and flares, trying to burn it down as well, attacking policemen and firemen and chanting anti-Russian and Nazi slogans at the same time.

Extreme-right assembles like this justify their violence as ‘police provocation’. Extreme-right supporters to see in protesters the patriotic elite of the Polish nation and defenders of collapsing morale. While the nationalist hooligans seem to make up a minority group, their actions reflect a particular shift in Polish society, including poor right-wing conservatives associated with Law and Justice Party, strongly dissatisfied with the liberal and pro-European government.

Let’s be under no illusions – the keynote of the Independence March was clear: anger, fear, frustration accompanied by poverty and boredom covered with nationalist slogans. This is just how worrying Poland’s attitude towards unsolved historic problems and LGBT community is becoming. Constantly repeated slogans against everything instead of chants of support will definitely cause serious problems in the future.

Katarzyna Sowa

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