Conflicts & War

Ultranationalists clash with police on Poland’s Independence Day

Warsaw, Nov 11 (efe-epa).- Ultranationalists who defied a pandemic-motivated ban on marches to mark Poland’s Independence Day clashed with police here Wednesday.

After Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski announced the prohibition on marches, nationalists organized a vehicle caravan, but participants left their cars to proceed on foot down side streets adjacent to the designated route, carrying banners praising the Catholic Church and Poland’s long-gone monarchy, lighting flares and chanting slogans.

They made their way peacefully to the center of the capital, where groups broke away from the procession and pulled down fences erected to protect public buildings.

The hundreds of police deployed to monitor the march resorted to tear gas and rubber bullets, yet that didn’t stop the situation from escalating as the march neared the National Museum and it was only after carrying out arrests that the security forces managed to restore calm.

Marchers hurled torches and other objects at buildings displaying LGBT symbols and rainbow flags and harassed news crews covering the event.

Confrontations between ultranationalists and police have been a feature of Poland’s Independence Day in recent years. On this occasion, however, the government asked people to stay home in light of a surge in Covid-19 cases.

Apart from the extremists, small groups gathered at various points in downtown Warsaw to celebrate the 102nd anniversary of the re-emergence of Poland as a unified, independent nation with the end of World War I on November 11, 1918.

Elements in the opposition to Poland’s right-wing government called for observing Independence Day 2020 with a “quarantine on nationalism.”

Small delegations from various political parties, including the formation that backed Trzaskowski’s unsuccessful presidential bid last summer, placed wreaths at the Independence monument.

Pandemic restrictions that took effect over the weekend limit gatherings to no more than five people.

Poland saw a record 27,875 new infections in a 24-hour period at the end of last week and Wednesday’s figure topped 25,000, with 430 coronavirus deaths.

The country has registered more than 680,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic. EFE pg-gc/dr

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