Warsaw Mayor Bans Poland’s 100th Independence Anniversary March to Avoid Racist Outbursts
Last year’s Independence Day rally in Warsaw brought about international criticism over what were seen as racist and anti-Muslim slogans.
The Mayor of Warsaw, Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, has banned a march to celebrate the 100th anniversary since Poland’s independence on Sunday, November 11, which is also the day when World War I ended.
Gronkiewicz-Waltz, who is from the opposition liberal Civic Platform party, and at bitter odds with the ruling conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS), imposed the ban on security grounds, and in order to “avoid” demonstrations of racism which she says marred last year’s Independence Day march.
“This is not how the celebrations should look on the 100th anniversary of regaining our independence,” Warsaw’s Mayor said, as cited by Radio Poland.
“Warsaw has suffered enough under aggressive nationalism,” Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz insisted.
Last year’s Independence Day march in Warsaw included about 60,000 people. It generated criticism abroad, as alongside the Polish flags waved, there were also banners with what were described as racist and anti-Muslim, for example, “A white Europe of fraternal nations.”
Poland’s then Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski at the time described some incidents at the rally as “reprehensible” but argued that some international reactions were “extremely exaggerated and unjustified.”
The ban by Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz on Poland’s centenary Independence Day march was criticized by critics as “arrogant” and “shameful.”
In the wake of the ban, Polish President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki decided to organize a different, official march, a spokesman for the head of state said.
The organizers of the original mass rally, however, vowed to challenge the mayor’s ban in court, and to hold the procession anyway.
Polish nationalists and far-right organizers from the National Radical Camp (ONR) expected between 100,000-250,000 participants to turn up for Sunday’s event.
On Sunday, like the rest of Europe, Poland is to mark the 100th anniversary since the end of World War I but also the centenary of its independence.
Prior to the First World War, Polish territory had been split between the Kingdom of Prussia (later part of the German Empire), the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Russian Empire.
The controversy over Poland’s Independence Day march comes against the backdrop of Warsaw facing criticism by Brussels and Western EU member states over matters such as the rule of law, with European Council President Donald Tusk, Poland’s liberal Prime Minister in 2007 – 2014, warning the country might end up “falling out of the EU”.
(Banner image: Civic Platform party)