Polish national day march turns violent

Polish national day march turns violent

WARSAW - Reuters
Polish national day march turns violent

It was the second year Independence Day celebrations have degenerated into violence, underlining the gulf between the government and nationalists. AFP photo

Poland police in Warsaw used truncheons and rubber bullets on Nov. 11 to break up a crowd of right-wing extremists who pelted them with firecrackers and lumps of concrete at a parade to mark the national holiday.

Thousands of police in riot geared lining the streets trying to stop trouble erupting between right-wing groups, left-wing radicals, and government supporters, all holding their own Independence Day parades to push their competing visions of what sort of country Poland should be.

Violence flared as demonstrators gathered for a right-wing rally in the shadow of the Palace of Culture and Science. Young men with their faces covered by scarves chanted nationalist slogans and railed against supposed Jewish conspiracies. Some of the crowd threw firecrackers and projectiles at police in riot gear who had cordoned off the area. They also ran to a nearby construction site and tore off lumps of concrete to use as missiles.

Police respond by beating protesters with truncheons, forcing the rioters to disperse. “The police used rubber bullets, pepper spray, stun grenades and truncheons,” said police spokesman Mariusz Sokolowski. Police officials said that 132 people were detained. Five policemen sustained injuries that needed hospital treatment.

Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, addressing the Independence Day parade a few hours before the violence broke out, appealed for a less polarized society. “Public life is poisoned by excessive rows,” he said. “We should be critical, but criticism should not mean mutual destruction.”