Deputy Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Monday that the European Union’s largest eastern nation was safer and more tolerant compared with nationalist movements in Austria, Italy and France. Images from the 60,000-strong weekend Independence Day march in Warsaw showed masked protesters carrying banners saying “Europe will be white or uninhabited” and “Pure Blood.” While ruling-party officials didn’t attend, Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak called the march “a beautiful sight.”
“It’s clear that these types of marginal voices are caught and sent abroad by the Polish press, and this is an image problem,” said Morawiecki, whose government is battling accusations of undermining democracy and has rejected an EU agreement to shelter refugees. “Poland is an oasis of security, peace and tolerance.”
Poland’s ruling Law & Justice Party has drawn criticism from the EU for backsliding on democracy as it vows to return the country to its traditional conservative Catholic roots. Hours before the march, ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski pledged in a speech to keep Poland on a path of “pride, independence and strength.” He called on Poles to lead "sick Europe" to the path of "health, to fundamental values, to true freedom and to the strengthening of our civilization based on Christianity."
Guy Verhofstadt, an EU lawmaker critical of Poland’s turn toward populism, said that he and his Polish colleagues were “outraged” by the march and asked why officials hadn’t condemned fascist symbols shown there, according to his Twitter account.
Along with the banners and chants were pictures of anti-Semite Roman Dmowski, a leading Polish nationalist in the 1920s and 1930s and flags of Falanga, a nationalist group from that era that advocated "Catholic totalitarianism" and taking away rights from Jews.
“Authorities categorically condemn views based on racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic ideas,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Monday. It added that most of the people who marched on Saturday wanted to “peacefully show their patriotism.”
Deputy Justice Minister Patryk Jaki said those carrying “shameful” banners may have been “provocateurs” who wanted to “ruin the fantastic event.”
As it was reported earlier on Saturday, November 11, the annual Independence March kicked off in Warsaw. This year the march is held under the slogan "We want God," Ukrinform reports. It is reported that tens of thousands of people with nationalistic views take part in the march. It is noted that nationalists from Hungary and Slovakia joined the nationalists of Poland. Witnesses noted that police helicopters fly over the participants of the march. People have firecrackers, the place of the beginning of the march is shrouded in smoke.
March of Independence takes place in Poland every year on the occasion of Independence Day. It is noted that in previous years, during the Independence March, there have been different provocations, in particular, the clashes of marchers with police and opponents of the demonstration. Last year, the Ukrainian flag was burned during this event.