Warsaw, Poland – A Warsaw court has overturned the ban on an annual nationalist march with far-right elements due to take place in central Warsaw to commemorate the anniversary of the re-establishment of Polish independence.
The Warsaw March of Independence, organised by nationalist and far-right groups and held annually in the Polish capital on 11 November, was originally banned by Warsaw’s outgoing mayor and a leading figure in the opposition Civic Platform party, Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, due to concerns over security and expressions of hatred.
“Warsaw has suffered enough through aggressive nationalism,” she announced on Wednesday. “The 100th anniversary of Poland’s independence shouldn’t look like this.”
Citing the constitutional right to freedom of assembly, the latest court ruling follows a similar decision in the city of Wroclaw to lift a ban on a far-right march – a decision that was welcomed by the organisers who had already threatened to defy the ban.
“We are victorious, the Independence March will take place in Warsaw,” they said in a statement.
Despite the Warsaw ruling, it is not immediately clear whether both planned marches will still go ahead. The city has the right to appeal.
With the rally growing dramatically over the past ten years, attracting activists from across Europe, last year’s march drew widespread criticism and international condemnation for the presence of racist and xenophobic banners and slogans. The event was marked by instances of violence with marchers calling for a ‘White Poland’ and displaying white supremacist symbols attacking peaceful counter-protesters.
Many non-extremist Poles attend these marches with national flags, arguing that there is nothing wrong with expressions of patriotism honouring the country and celebrating its independence. More than 100,000 people are expected to attend this year’s event.
The ongoing controversy surrounding the march has already cast a shadow on the upcoming commemorative events which are planned all over the country on Sunday to celebrate the centenary of the end of World War I and of the establishment of Poland’s second republic, after more than a century of rule by Prussia, the Austro-Hungarian empire and Russia.