Fascists and white supremacists descended on Warsaw Saturday to mark Poland’s independence day by chanting Neo-Nazi slogans. Police estimated some 60,000 people took part in the demonstration that included banners that read, “White Europe, Europe must be white” and, “Pray for an Islamic Holocaust.” Experts say the annual event marked one of the biggest far-right demonstrations in Europe over the past few years.
The xenophobic, fascist, and anti-refugee march is an annual event that has emerged as a key rallying point for far-right groups across the continent. “The numbers attending this year seem to be bigger and, while not everyone on the march is a far-right activist or fascist, it is undoubtedly becoming more significant and is acting as a magnet for far-right groups around the world,” Nick Lowles, from anti-extremist group Hope Not Hate, tells the Guardian.
A few anti-fascist demonstrators gathered in the Polish capital throughout the day to condemn the protests but their numbers were tiny in comparison. Some 2,000 people gathered to condemn the nationalists and organizers largely kept the two groups apart. In what seems to be the only isolated episode of violence, white nationalists at one point kicked and pushed a group of women who were carrying a banner that read, “Stop Fascism.”
The Polish government has come under criticism for its nationalistic rhetoric that many have said indirectly promote the kind of views espoused by the marchers on Saturday. The government seemed eager to downplay the fascist side of the demonstration. State broadcaster TVP, for example, called it a “great march of patriots,” making it seem like the march was about Poles expressing love for their homeland. “It was a beautiful sight,” Mariusz Błaszczak, Poland’s interior minister, said. “We are proud that so many Poles have decided to take part in a celebration connected to the Independence Day holiday.”