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Ultra-nationalist violence mars Polish independence day
World

Ultra-nationalist violence mars Polish independence day

12.11.2013 From our online archive
Officials in Warsaw on Monday halted a march by ultra-nationalists after they clashed with police, violently disrupting celebrations marking Poland's independence day.

(AFP) Officials in Warsaw on Monday halted a march by ultra-nationalists after they clashed with police, violently disrupting celebrations marking Poland's independence day.

Police said four officers were hospitalised after rioters set alight two cars and a guard's booth in front of the Russian embassy, Poland's Soviet-era master.

"There is no justification for hooliganism," ministry spokesman Marcin Wojciechoski said on Twitter in an apology to Russia.

Around 50,000 people, mostly men in black, surged through the city centre brandishing Polish flags and chanting slogans such as "God, honour, fatherland".

Some wore balaclavas and carried red flares, while others hid their faces with football scarves as they hurled rocks and bottles at riot police, who responded with rubber bullets and tear gas.

The capital's streets were lined with shards of broken beer bottles following the demonstration, which was organised by several far-right groups.

Many were demanding the unpopular centre-right government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk step down.

Some hooligans broke off from the main march, attacking a city-centre squat known as a hub of anti-fascist political activity.

One resident in his twenties wearing a ski mask said around 200 men launched an attack on the building with rocks and petrol bombs.

"They tried to storm in, but we managed to fight them off and extinguish the Molotov cocktails. We have a few injured but thankfully nothing serious," the man, who refused to reveal his name.

The marchers also set ablaze a rainbow art installation covered in plastic flowers symbolising tolerance.

The official independence day event went off without a hitch earlier in the day, with thousands attending, while Monday also saw the launch of the UN's COP19 climate change conference in the city.

Poland won back its independence on November 11, 1918 after being wiped off the European map for 123 years in a three-way carve-up between Tsarist Russia, Prussia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.