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Far-Right Marches Mar Polish Independence Day Celebrations

Protesters called for a ‘white Europe’ and ‘Islamic Holocaust,’ in a show of support for a Catholic, and not secular, Poland.

13 November 2017

This Saturday, Polish independence celebrations in Warsaw were disrupted by as many as 60,000 people, according to police estimates, who marched on the streets of the Polish capital chanting slogans and carrying banners calling for a white Europe.

 

CNN reported that demonstrators carried banners that read "Europe must be white,” while chants of "Death to enemies of the homeland," and "Catholic Poland, not secular," were heard during the march.

 

One of its main organizers, the far-right organization National Radical Camp, has a history of protesting against topics it deems at odds with Polish Catholic values, such as Muslim immigration or gay rights.

 

Far-right marchers at the Polish Independence Day celebrations were heard chanting anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim and anti-secular slogans. Screenshot: Vazowski Official / Youtube

 

The Times of Israel reported that anti-Semitic chants of “Jews out of Poland,” and “Pure Poland, Jew-free Poland,” could be heard.

 

In a statement, Israel’s Foreign Ministry called for Warsaw to “take action against the march’s organizers,” according to The Times of Israel. Around 90 percent of Poland’s Jewish community was killed in the Holocaust.

 

Other chants called for an “Islamic Holocaust,” reported Al Jazeera, although less than 1 percent of Poland’s population is Muslim.

 

The latest Polish census, which took place in 2011, showed that, out of the people who declared a religion, 97 percent said they were Catholics, a percentage that translates into about 89 percent of the population.

 

However, Rafal Pankowski, head of the anti-extremist association Never Again, says that, despite appearances, marchers were not inspired by religious beliefs, but, in some cases, by far-right, “neo-pagan” ones.

 

“We know that Donald Trump is not the most religious man, and I think that most of the organizers are not very religious, either. But they use Christianity as a kind of identity marker, which is mostly about being anti-Islam now,” Pankowski said, according to AP.  

 

The country’s Independence Day celebrates the armistice ending World War I, which also ended Poland’s partition among Prussia, the Russian Empire, and the Habsburg Empire after more than a century.  

 

In a move that might seem unexpected in light of the protesters and their slogans, Poland's Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak called the celebrations “peaceful” and “safe.”

 

“We could see white and red in the streets of Warsaw, it was a beautiful sight. We are proud that so many Poles decided to take part in events,” Blaszczak said, according to Radio Poland.

 

A smaller counter-demonstration against the far-right marchers took place earlier in the day. “I’m shocked that they’re allowed to demonstrate on this day. It’s 50 to 100,000 mostly football hooligans hijacking patriotism,” one counter-protester told The Times of Israel.

 

 

  • Last month, infamous U.S. white nationalist Richard Spencer cancelled his trip to Poland after the Polish Foreign Ministry expressed strong objections to his visit. Richard Spencer was booked to speak at a panel organized by the Polish far-right National Social Congress in Warsaw on 10 November, the day before Poland’s Independence Day.

 

  • Poland’s Independence Day holiday has a history of attracting extreme nationalist marchers and rioters in recent years. In 2015 saw a similar event when tens of thousands of people – 25,000 according to police estimates – took to the streets chanting anti-migrant and anti-EU slogans. 

 

  • Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, said that 11 November was “the 99th anniversary of the day that is considered the day Poland regained its independence, a very important day in our history,” reported Radio Poland.

Compiled by Kate Syme-Lamont

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