Far-right nationalists march on Polish Independence Day
Published 11/11/2016 | 16:26
Far-right nationalists, burning flares and carrying Polish flags, have marched in large numbers through the streets of Warsaw to mark Independence Day, an annual ritual that has turned violent in recent years.
Across the country, Poles marked the day with official parades and other events. President Andrzej Duda led ceremonies in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw to mark 98 years since Poland regained its independence at the end of the First World War after 123 years of foreign rule.
The Committee for the Defence of Democracy, an organisation founded last year to fight the centralisation of power by Poland's right-wing government, also held a march in defence of democratic values. The group, known as KOD, chose to march on the national holiday to take some of the attention away from the far-right extremists who have dominated the holiday for several years running.
Some of the nationalists carried banners depicting a falanga, which is a far-right symbol dating to the 1930s which shows a stylised hand with a sword. The nationalists, who are strongly opposed to accepting refugees from the Middle East, was held under the slogan "Poland the Bastion of Europe".
One huge banner read "God, Honour, Fatherland", a patriotic slogan. Others read: "Death to the enemies of the fatherland" and "To be a Pole, to be a Catholic is a privilege and honour".
Separately, left-wing activists held what they called an "anti-fascist" march in a separate part of the capital.
Early in the day, Mr Duda, Prime Minister Beata Szydlo and other leaders attended the opening ceremony of Warsaw's Temple of Divine Providence, a church the Polish parliament first planned to build in 1791, but which got delayed because of centuries of occupation, war and communism. The construction finally began in 2002, after the fall of communism.