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Will Poland hold its National Independence Day march this year?

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Warsaw, Poland – Poland’s National Independence Day march, held every year in Warsaw on November 11, has once again been thrown into turmoil. With a little more than a week to go, it remains uncertain whether the event will be held or not.

Last week, the Warsaw District Court ruled in favour of mayor Rafal Trzaskowski and upheld the decision to ban this year’s Independence Day march following violence that erupted in 2020.

The opposition mayor of the Polish capital and outspoken critic of the conservative government said Warsaw was “no place to propagate slogans that have all the hallmarks of fascist slogans.”

Pledging to appeal the ruling, the organisers of the nationalist march remain undeterred and insisted they would go ahead with the march as planned despite the ban.

Their move to have the Independence Day rally registered as a cyclical event – a status that would give them precedence over other demonstrations – was approved by regional governor Konstanty Radziwill before being struck down in court.

“If the nationalists congregate on November 11, it will be an unlawful assembly,” Warsaw mayor Rafal Trzaskowski warned on Twitter.

The government and ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, which has been either complacent or openly supportive of the far-right groups in charge of the march’s organisation, has yet to issue a statement on the matter.

Celebrating the day Poland regained its independence on November 11, 1918, after more than 120 years of Russian, Prussian and Austrian occupation and coinciding with the armistice signed between Germany and France, the National Independence Day march has in recent years become a highly divisive event.

Largely coopted by far-right groups and ultra-nationalist factions, including from other countries, the rally is regularly fraught with racist symbols and Nazi imagery, which are banned in Poland.

Last year, a march held in violation of Covid-19 pandemic-related restrictions ended in violent clashes between the police and far-right supporters.

To better understand the complex politics and social dynamics underlining Poland’s National Independence Day march, you can read our previous report here.