Polish nationalists and far-right individuals have clashed with police as thousands defied a coronavirus pandemic-related ban to join a self-styled “independence march” through the capital, Warsaw.
The unrest on Wednesday erupted broke out after the participants ignored police warnings to disperse to limit COVID-19 infection risks.
“Several officers were injured” after being attacked by “groups of hooligans”, the police said on Twitter.
“Officers had to act decisively in order to clear a passage for ambulances and vehicles carrying respirators that were being blocked by hooligans,” they said.
Police fired rubber bullets after protesters threw stones and firecrackers during the Independence Day march.
November 11 is a national holiday in Poland to celebrate when Jozef Pilsudski assumed command of Polish troops in Warsaw and declared independence in 1918, coinciding with the armistice between Germany and France.
In previous years, there have been clashes with police and counter-demonstrators during Independence Day marches, and protesters carried red flares, as well as racist or Nazi symbols, which are banned in Poland.
Warsaw’s liberal mayor Rafal Trzaskowski had banned this year’s march because of the pandemic and the government urged people not to take part.
Deputy Health Minister Waldemar Kraska said last week that it would be “a demonstration of patriotism” not to participate in the march.
🇵🇱Hooligans just set fire to an apartment during #MarszNiepodłegłości2020 because there's a poster of the Women Strike and an LGBTI-flag🏳️🌈 on the building.
Every year, tens of thousands of hooligans from across Poland come together in Warsaw to "celebrate" Independence Day. pic.twitter.com/lYwNalYnq2
— Rémy Bonny 🏳️🌈🇪🇺 (@RemyBonny) November 11, 2020
But participants, many of whom did not wear masks, waved Polish flags and chanted, “God, honour and homeland!”
This year’s demonstration was organised under the motto “Our Civilisation, Our Rules” and its advertising poster showed a knight breaking a red-and-rainbow-coloured star, an apparent reference to communism and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ) community.
The march came on the heels of massive protests in the past few weeks about abortion rights, where hundreds of thousands of people took to the street to protest against the pro-government Constitutional Tribunal’s efforts to ban abortions, even in cases of fetal defects.