Polish leaders to hold Independence Day march

The Independence March has been held annually since 2010

The Independence March has been held annually since 2010

A Polish court has overturned a ban on a nationalist march in Warsaw to mark 100 years of Poland's independence.

The march has become a major feature of Polish independence day, which falls on November 11, but has been marred by violence in the past and become increasingly associated with ultra-Right extremists.

Last year's event drew global outrage and condemnation after some of its participants shouted xenophobic slogans like "Pure Poland, white Poland" and "Refugees get out".

Despite the reputational damage done to Poland, the march's defenders argued that the majority of people who took part in it were not neo-fascists.

Outgoing Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz told reporters in Warsaw on Wednesday she had not received assurances from the interior ministry regarding a police presence to guarantee the event's security this Sunday.

The organisers of the march lodged an appeal against the ban and said they meant to march regardless. They mostly praised the march as an expression of patriotism, with one minister calling it a "beautiful sight".

"The mayor's decision was a blessing for Duda and the government because it allowed the liberal opposition to take the blame from the nationalists for banning their march, whilst avoiding the possibility of a neo-fascist festival being held on the centenary of our independence", said Michał Szułdrzyński, a columnist with Rzeczpospolita, a centre-right broadsheet.

Hours after the mayor's announcement, Andrzej Duda, Poland's rightwing president, said the Polish state would be organising its own march at the same time and along the same route as the banned march, effectively assuming direct control of the event.

Chants included "The whole Poland sings with us: F*** off with the refugees", "Not red, not rainbow but national Poland", "One nation across the borders", and "F*** Antifa". Poland's second republic was established on 11 November 1918 at the end of World War One, after more than a century of rule by Prussia, the Austro-Hungarian empire and Russian Federation.

A similar ban on a far-right Independence Day march was announced Tuesday by the mayor of the western Polish city of Wroclaw, who cited the risk that participants might incite racial and ethnic hatred.

The bans followed signals that radical far-right groups planned to travel to Poland for Sunday's march in the capital.

Mass walk-outs by Polish police officers in recent days also raised concerns that clashes between participants and counter-protesters could get out of hand if there were not enough officers to intervene.

Meanwhile, a controversial statue of late President Lech Kaczynski was installed in a central Warsaw square ahead of its weekend unveiling as part of the centennial celebrations. The statue will be official unveiled on Saturday as part of the centennial observances marking 100 years of Polish independence.

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

While Poles united in mourning the tragedy that took his life and 95 others, including the first lady, they are deeply divided on whether he deserves such heroic status.

Authorities in Warsaw's local government opposed the statue and its central location. Even if the courts confirm her decision, we will still meet.

In Britain, Armistice Day will be commemorated Sunday with a solemn ceremony at the Cenotaph in London that will be attended by Queen Elizabeth II.

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