Warsaw bans nationalist march marking Polish independence centenary

WARSAW (Reuters) – Warsaw’s mayor has banned a nationalist march planned for Sunday to mark the centenary of Polish independence, citing the risk of violence and expressions of hatred.

The march was being organized partly by far-right nationalist groups, one of which said it would defy the ban.

A rally is held annually in the capital on Nov. 11 to commemorate the anniversary of Poland’s independence at the end of World War One. Last year’s event was marked by racist chanting and confrontations with counter-protestors.

“Warsaw has already suffered enough due to aggressive nationalism,” Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz said. “Poland’s 100th anniversary of independence shouldn’t look like this, hence my decision to forbid it.”

Some of the march’s organizers said they were planning on showing up regardless.

“We don’t understand the decision of Mayor Gronkiewicz-Waltz … Even if the courts confirm her decision, we will still meet … The march will take place,” said Tomasz Dorosz, the leader of Poland’s National Radical Camp, one of the groups involved in organizing the march.

Earlier this week Gronkiewicz-Waltz said she would consider banning the march “if there was any element of hatred”, according to local Polish broadcaster TVN24.

President Andrzej Duda’s office said he had invited Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to discuss the ban.

Duda had already decided to stay away from the event, which last year drew around 60,000 people, including representatives of far-right groups from across Poland and Europe.

At the time participants chanted anti-migrant slogans, many of which were also written on banners. This drew condemnation from a variety of groups, including Jewish organizations.

Poland’s PiS government has refused to take in Middle Eastern and North African migrants, despite European Union demands to do so, citing public safety worries.

However, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who heads the ruling party, condemned the racist messages during the 2017 march.

“Polish tradition – the one we invoke – has nothing to do with anti-Semitism, we are as far as possible from that, nothing to do with racism,” he said.

On Nov. 11 Poles commemorate the establishment of the second Polish republic in 1918 from territory seized in the 18th century by the Russian, Austrian and Prussian empires.

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