Polish far-white nationalists march in Warsaw

Tens of thousands of nationalists marched in a demonstration organized by far-right groups in Warsaw Saturday, as Poles celebrated their country's Independence Day.

As Poland has moved further to the right, the rally has grown.

Numerous marchers were young men, some with their faces covered or with beer bottles in hand, throwing red smoke bombs.

While some participants who rallied in Warsaw did so under atheistic, nationalistic banners, others marched under religious imagery, chanting "We Want God", which alluded to an old Polish religious song that U.S. President Donald Trump had excerpted during his visit to the polish capital earlier this year.

The Polish Foreign Ministry said it condemned the racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic ideas, but insisted that the nationalist march in Warsaw during the weekend was largely an expression of patriotic values, the Associated Press reported.

Some carried the Celtic Cross, a white supremacist symbol.

Far-right leaders from other European countries also took part: among them were Tommy Robinson from Britain and Roberto Fiore from Italy.

At a separate Independence Day event in Kraków, the leader of the governing Law and Justice Party, Jarosław Kaczyński, also struck a nationalist chord.

The Polish Interior Minister, Mariusz Błaszczak, called the event a "beautiful sight".

The ministry said the march on Independence Day Saturday was a "great celebration of Poles differing in their views but united by the common ideals of freedom and loyalty to the independent state".

But many argued the day had been "hijacked" by racist groups, with an "anti-fascist" counter-protest attracting around 2,000 people. One sign read, "White Europe of brotherly nations", and another said, "We want God".

Many people in the crowd told local and worldwide media they were not part of the radical-nationalist groups, but were attending in celebration of Independence Day. "It's 50 to 100,000 mostly football hooligans hijacking patriotism", said 50-year-old Briton Andy Eddles, a language teacher who has been living in Poland for 27 years.

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

Duda invites all living former Polish presidents and premiers to attend each year, and Saturday marked the first time since the PiS party came to power in 2015 that EU President Donald Tusk - a former Polish premier and PiS rival - made a decision to attend.

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.

Relations between PiS and Tusk have been so tense that Poland was the only country to vote against his reelection as European Union president in March.

Vanessa Coleman

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