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.

Poland riots
Poland riotsFlickr/Maciej Zygmunt

Protestors clash with police

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.

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.