Poland celebrates Independence Day


Several of the speakers called on people to stand against liberals and defend Christian values.

On Independence Day, Duda also awarded state distinctions, including three Orders of the White Eagle, the highest state distinction in Poland given for civilian and military contributions to the country. Poland celebrates this Independence Day from the old powers on November 11, the same day as the Armistice of 1918 that ended the war. Some participants held umbrellas that spelled out "Stop Facism" and others carried a banner that read "Rainbow is the new black".

But in the past few years, the holiday has been overshadowed by the far-right march and fears of violence.

Marchers were seen with flares and smoke bombs, while some wore balaclavas and carried bottles beer.

An estimated 60,000 people turned out in Warsaw for the march, with many chanting "clean blood", "pure Poland" and "white Poland" and carrying posters with the words: "white Europe of brotherly nations".

Supporters of the country's governing conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party took part in the annual march, which takes place alongside other events.

"It was a handsome sight", the interior minister, Mariusz Blaszczak, said.

But many argued the day had been "hijacked" by racist groups, with an "anti-fascist" counter-protest attracting around 2,000 people.

The two groups were kept separate by police.

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Around 60,000 people marched in Warsaw on Independence Day, some chanting anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim and anti-gay slogans.

"I came especially so that my participation in this event would mark the beginning of preparations for the 100th anniversary of Poland's independence". adding that he would next year honour his grandfather, who fought in the Polish Legions, which were set up by Piłdudski in World War One.

Andy Eddles, a British language teacher who has been living in Poland for 27 years, said he was "shocked that they're allowed to demonstrate on this day".

"For me it's important to support the anti-fascist coalition, and to support fellow democrats, who are under pressure in Poland today", he said.

Many people in the crowd told local and global media they were not part of the radical-nationalist groups, but were attending in celebration of Independence Day.

European Council President Donald Tusk, who is a former Polish prime minister and a political opponent of the current Warsaw government, was in Poland for Independence Day celebrations.

"No politician in Poland has ever had nor will ever have a monopoly on patriotism".

Relations between Brussels and Warsaw have worsened in recent months because of the PiS government's controversial court reforms, large-scale logging in a primeval forest and refusal to welcome migrants.

Poland was the only European Union country to vote against Mr Tusk's reelection as European Union president in March.