Poland Marks 100th Independence Day With Nationalist March - EcoFinBiz Blog

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Poland Marks 100th Independence Day With Nationalist March

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(Bloomberg) -- Poland is set to mark the centennial anniversary of regaining its sovereignty amid concerns that events on Sunday may be hijacked by far-right groups.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said this week that he expects as many 200,000 to gather in Warsaw and celebrate independence in an outpouring of patriotism. The government and nationalist groups will march together, in a test of whether the ruling Law & Justice party will wield control over fringe groups on its political right or justify its excesses.

At the vanguard of populist movements challenging the European Union’s liberal and multi-cultural values, Poland has attracted scrutiny under the leadership of Law & Justice. It has clashed with allies over issues such as the rule of law, media freedom and the country’s role in the Holocaust, while critics claim the government is cuddling the far-right.

This week, the major of Warsaw, whose party is in the opposition to Law & Justice, banned the day’s biggest event -- a march planned by nationalist groups, saying it would jeopardize security. A few hours later, Morawiecki and President Andrzej Duda decided to lead a state march along the same route, inviting “all Poles” to join them under the country’s white-and-red flags, while vowing to do everything possible to keep hard-core extremists away.

“For everyone in the Polish government, it’s crystal clear that we can’t accept this type of behavior,” Morawiecki told reporters this week. “We’ll try to be as decisive as it gets.”

The U.S. Embassy in Warsaw issued a security alert, telling Americans to avoid crowds and “keep a low profile” as similar events in the past were marred by incidents and slogans “aimed at racial, sexual, and religious minorities.”

During last year’s independence day march, nationalists in a crowd of 60,000 people shouted xenophobic slogans and carried banners saying “Pure Blood” and “Europe will be white or uninhabited.” Some waved the green-and-white flags of Falanga, a Polish nationalist group from the 1920s and 1930s that advocated "Catholic totalitarianism" and stripping Jews of their rights.

No arrests have been made in the 12 months since the rally, which at the time Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak called “a beautiful sight.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Marek Strzelecki in Warsaw at mstrzelecki1@bloomberg.net;Dorota Bartyzel in Warsaw at dbartyzel@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrea Dudik at adudik@bloomberg.net, Wojciech Moskwa

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