Warsaw Bans Nationalist March Marking Independence Centenary

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The mayor of Warsaw on Wednesday banned radical Polish nationalists from marching on the 100th anniversary of Poland's independence due to security concerns.

The march has become a major feature of Polish independence day, which falls on November 11, but has been marred by violence in the past and become increasingly associated with ultra-Right extremists.

It attracted 60,000 people previous year, including neo-Nazis from Italy, the United Kingdom, and further afield, some of whom chanted racist and anti-semitic slogans, carried banners with neo-Nazi symbols, set off smoke bombs, and damaged cars, shrubs, and pavements.

Despite the reputational damage done to Poland, the march's defenders argued that the majority of people who took part in it were not neo-fascists.

"History, both Polish history and specifically the history of Warsaw", were part of the reason why she blocked the event, the city's mayor, Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, told press on Wednesday.

But with organisers of the march already saying they will appeal the ban, and hinting they will march regardless, the Polish capital could well face a volatile showdown between marchers and the police on Sunday. "Poland's 100th anniversary of independence shouldn't look like this, hence my decision to forbid it".

Tens of thousands of participants had been expected to attend, including far-right activists from elsewhere in Europe, with organizers claiming the event could be the biggest such march in Europe in years.

After the mayor banned the march on Wednesday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of the right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS) said a separate march would be held on Sunday following the same route as the far-right one.

Duda and the government had been engaged in negotiations with the organisers in the hope that they could be persuaded to march under state auspices in return for agreeing not to allow racist or extremist banners.

Poland became independent on November 11, 1918, at the end of World War I. She said she has asked the government to outlaw it but has been ignored.

He invited all Poles to march with the national flags Sunday to show that "we are one white-and-red team", a reference to the national colors.

The bans come amid signals that radical far-right groups planned to travel to Poland for the day and as police have staged mass walk-outs that raised security concerns.

Meanwhile, a controversial statue of late President Lech Kaczynski was installed in a central Warsaw square ahead of its weekend unveiling as part of the centennial celebrations.

However, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who heads the ruling party, condemned the racist messages during the 2017 march.

Authorities in Warsaw's local government opposed the statue and its central location. At almost 7 meters (23 feet) it towers over a nearby monument of the national hero Marshal Jozef Pilsudski, the statesman who led Poland in regaining its independence a century ago.

The end of World War I is also being marked on Sunday in Paris, where dozens of world leaders will gather, including host French President Emmanuel Macron and counterparts Donald Trump of the United States, Vladimir Putin of Russian Federation and Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Special tributes to fallen and injured servicemen will also include a Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey in London.

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