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Bigotry and Fear Filled Warsaw's Streets on Polish Independence Day

On Monday, a crowd of thousands celebrated the national holiday by taking aim at Jewish people, Islam, abortion and the LGBT community.
12 November 2019, 5:08pm
Attendees during Poland's Independence Day March
All photos by the author.

In recent years, Poland's Independence Day celebrations on the 11th of November have increasingly become a show of far-right extremism. This year's edition was no different, with the largest events again organised by extreme right-wing and nationalist groups. Recently, Polish voters reinstated the Law and Justice (PiS) party, whose campaign was largely based on “protecting” Polish values by furiously attacking LGBT minorities. Nationalist groups including All-Polish Youth, National Radical Camp and National Movement organised this year's event under the mantra: “Keep the nation in your care”. This year there were noticeably more families, children and elderly people in attendance.

The gathering in the centre of Warsaw kicked off with a prayer, before organisers addressed the crowd. From the podium, Robert Bąkiewicz, head of the Independence March Association and a former district head of the far-right National Radical Camp (ONR), declared, “There is no Polishness without Catholicism,” before also making anti-Semitic claims. Nearby, stands were set up to collect signatures against Law 447 (known as the JUST Act in the US), which concerns compensation for Jewish people who had property seized during the Holocaust.

The crowd's hateful chants took aim at a range of perceived enemies, from communists, leftists and Muslims to the LGBT community. At one point, a group of counter-protestors from the anti-facist group Citizens of Poland attempted to block the march, holding a banner reading "constitution". They were removed by police.

Later, a guest of the organisers, discredited American psychologist Paul Cameron, told the crowd, “Brave Poles saved Europe from Islam, now they will save from the deadly LGBT invasion”. Cameron, who was expelled from the American Psychological Association in the 1980s, has written papers that claim a link between homosexuality, child sex abuse and reduced life expectancy. People also held anti-abortion banners, featuring gruesome images of dead and bloody foetuses.

At the same time, left-leaning organisations held an anti-fascist demonstration in another part of the city, claiming a crowd of 10,000. Warsaw City Hall's press release said 47,000 attended the nationalist march, with that number differing wildly in comparison to the organisers’ own estimations, at 150,000 people. This year, government representatives didn’t join the nationalist event. Recently re-elected, they probably didn’t feel the need.

Scroll down to see more photos from the march.

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