Warsaw’s mayor has banned a march celebrating the 100th anniversary of Polish independence amid mounting fears it will be dominated by neo-fascists and the far-Right.
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.
Last year it made headlines around the world after it was led by groups carrying banners emblazoned with far-Right symbols and slogans.
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.
Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, Warsaw’s mayor, on Wednesday defended the ban by alluding to the Polish capital’s destruction by Nazi Germany, saying: “Warsaw has suffered enough at the hands of aggressive nationalism”.
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.
The centennial of the Polish independence was expected to attract an even larger crowd than usual by acting as a lure to neo-fascist groups both in Poland and abroad.
Poland’s conservative government has also sought to distance itself from the march. In a magazine interview published before the ban was announced Matuesz Morawiecki, the prime minister, said no government representatives would attend, saying: "We know what happened last year."
He added that the government did not want to take part in a march where "provocateurs" may be present.
Critics of the government often accuse it of encouraging far-Right politics through nationalistic policies and by demonising migrants.
Adding more reasons for the ban Ms Gronkiewicz-Waltz said that she also had concerns over security owing to industrial action being taken by the police.
Poland’s police force has been involved in protracted dispute with the government over pay and working conditions, and the mayor expressed fears that this could undermine its ability to cope with the march.end