The 102nd Polish Independence Day on Wednesday was marked by violent unrest after the city's riot police used tear gas and rubber bullets during clashes with Europe's largest group of far-right supporters who attended an annual march despite a ban on public gatherings owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
Many participants in Warsaw turned up in cars and on motorbikes to observe social distancing. But a few thousand others marched on foot. Some threw firecrackers, stones and bottles at police in riot gear and into windows with LGBT rainbow flags or signs of anti-government sentiment. An apartment went on fire, but firefighters put it out. But no one was hurt.
Protestors clash with police
One of thrown flares actually set one of flats on fire, all cus of their nationalist bullshit. If you can, please spread a word about it. We can't feel safe. It's not just about LGBT people here, supporters of legal abortion are another group on their aim.#PolandIndependenceDay https://t.co/On4qYnMZlz— MiyomiKonran (@MiyomiKonran) November 11, 2020
Warsaw police reported a number of arrests and also said some injured police officers were hospitalized. Warsaw authorities had banned the march, which a court also declared illegal, citing the ban on gatherings of over five people intended to stop the accelerating spread of the coronavirus.
One more video of what's happening in Warsaw right now during #PolandIndependenceDay. Please help spread the word about it. Nationalists already burned down someone's flat because of rainbow flag on balcony and poster supporting protests for legal abortion and Empik's store. https://t.co/ImRGySYLB2— MiyomiKonran (@MiyomiKonran) November 11, 2020
The march came at a time when thousands of Poles have been holding daily nationwide protests against the right-wing government that backed the tightening of an already strict abortion law last month. The protesters are also demanding more rights for LGBT people and want the government to resign.
Organized by far-right groups, massive Independence Day marches have often led to clashes with leftwing groups and the police.
The November 11 national holiday marks Poland's regaining of sovereignty after World War I in 1918. Other Independence Day observances on Wednesday included President Andrzej Duda and other leaders attending a Catholic Mass in Warsaw and a ceremonial changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.