Thousands of people took part in the Independence Day march in Warsaw, after the Polish nationalist government found a loophole that allowed the event, even though a court had previously declared it illegal due to Covid restrictions. 19.
Right-wing protesters, dressed mainly in black, invaded the central streets of the Polish capital on Thursday, carrying red and white national flags, burning rockets and chanting slogans.
The War Veterans Office, which became the organizer of this year’s event, said it was organized to honor the “Border protectors” and emphasize the need to defend Poland’s sovereignty from intruders.
Apparently they were referring to border guards, police and the army, who have prevented some 4,000 would-be asylum seekers from the Middle East from entering Poland from Belarus since the beginning of the week.
The Polish authorities described the ongoing humanitarian crisis as one “Hybrid Attack” by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko against Poland and the EU.
They say he deliberately took asylum seekers to Belarus, sending them to the border in retaliation for sanctions imposed on Minsk by Brussels for alleged human rights violations earlier this year.
Lukashenko says sanctions are the root cause of the crisis, arguing that the nation cannot cope with the influx of refugees as Western trade and investment have dried up.
Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski had challenged the registration of the Independence Day march in court, insisting that it should not be allowed due to the difficult epidemiological situation and the fact that in 2020 it was set up in violation of the ban on public gatherings .
Both the original and the appeals court have sided with Trzaskowski, but that still hasn’t been enough to prevent the meeting. Critics called it a right-wing march and accused participants of violence, anti-migrant and homophobic insults in the past.
On Tuesday, the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party in Poland offered the War Veterans Office as organizer of the march, giving it the status of a state ceremony, outside the jurisdiction of city authorities.
The move angered the opposition, but the left-wing coalition quickly argued that it was an official admission by the PiS government of long-suspected ties to nationalist groups.
“PiS has … taken responsibility for whatever happens during the march, every fight, every arson”, the left (Lewica) insisted on Twitter.
The ruling party’s spokesperson declined to comment on whether it approved the controversial event and redirected all questions to the Office of War Veterans.
The PiS government is currently quarreling with the EU over the Polish Constitutional Tribunal’s decision in October to prioritize national laws over those of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Brussels is withholding a € 36 billion grant for post-pandemic reconstruction from Warsaw to force it to adapt its judicial system to blockade standards.
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