Poland Independence Day: Thousands take part in far-right rally

European Union Fractured Over Christian Rights

Fascists and white supremacists descended on Warsaw Saturday to mark Poland's independence day by chanting Neo-Nazi slogans. Some participants held umbrellas that spelled out "Stop Facism" and others carried a banner that read "Rainbow is the new black".

An estimated 60,000 people marched through Poland last night, carrying far-right symbols and chanting racist slurs.

One of the lead organizations behind the nationalists march is the National Radical Camp, which has previously taken to the streets to protest against Muslim immigration, gay rights, the European Union and anything it considers undermines Polish Catholic values.

All Poland Youth has organized demonstrations on Polish Independence Day at least since 2010, but in its early years only a few hundred people attended.

The slogan for this year's event is "We Want God", words from an old religious Polish song that President Donald Trump quoted in July while visiting Warsaw.

They were campaigning for a "white Europe", as well as spreading messages about "standing against liberals" and "defending Christian values".

The march has become one of the largest such demonstration in Europe and drew far-right leaders from elsewhere in Europe, including Tommy Robinson from Britain and Roberto Fiore from Italy.

The rally appears to have gained the tacit approval of the governing Law and Justice Party, but officials told local and global media that the event met all legal requirements.

A small counter-protest also took place, with the two groups being kept apart in order to avoid confrontation. State broadcaster TVP, for example, called it a "great march of patriots", making it seem like the march was about Poles expressing love for their homeland. "We are proud that so many Poles have made a decision to take part in a celebration connected to the Independence Day holiday".

Mariusz Blaszczak, the country's interior minister, labelled the event as a "beautiful sight".

Andy Eddles, a British language teacher who has been living in Poland for 27 years, said he was "shocked that they're allowed to demonstrate on this day".

"I came especially so that my participation in this event would mark the beginning of preparations for the 100th anniversary of Poland's independence". adding that he would next year honour his grandfather, who fought in the Polish Legions, which were set up by Piłdudski in World War One.

"I'd say some people here do have extreme views, maybe even 30 per cent of those marching, but 70 per cent are simply walking peacefully, without shouting any fascist slogans", he said.

European Council President Donald Tusk, who is a former Polish prime minister and a political opponent of the current Warsaw government, was in Poland for Independence Day celebrations. Relations between PiS and Tusk have been so tense that Poland was the only country to vote against his re-election as European Union president in March.

Warsaw and Brussels have been increasingly at odds on a series of issues, including the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) government's controversial court reforms.

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