Tuesday November 14, 2017
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Demonstrators burn flares and wave Polish flags during the annual march to commemorate Poland's National Independence Day in Warsaw on November 11, 2017.  — AFP pic Demonstrators burn flares and wave Polish flags during the annual march to commemorate Poland's National Independence Day in Warsaw on November 11, 2017. — AFP pic WARSAW, Nov 14 — Poland’s right-wing leaders yesterday spoke out against xenophobia after a controversial Independence Day march organised by far-right groups.

Having started small in 2009, the annual event attracted a large following this year, with police estimating the crowd on Saturday in Warsaw at around 60,000.

While many marchers denied membership of or sympathy for extreme right groups, the event also drew representatives of far-right parties from Britain, Hungary, Italy and Slovakia, among others.

Dramatic images of the event showed some marchers holding banners saying “Pure blood” and “Europe will be white”, while others chanted “Pure Poland, white Poland” and “Refugees get out”.

Poland’s conservative President Andrzej Duda insisted yesterday that “there is no place or consent in our country for xenophobia, there is no place in our country for sick nationalism, there is no place in our country for anti-Semitism.”

The American Jewish Congress yesterday urged the “Polish government to expressly oppose the hatred fueled by the Polish extreme right.”

The AJC added that the march “was used to promote the slogans of white supremacists and neo-Nazi rhetoric.”

Duda was echoed by the powerful leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, widely regarded as Poland’s defacto powerbroker.

Kaczynski called the far-right slogans at Saturday’s march “extremely bad, completely unacceptable”, but insisted they were “very marginal” incidents.

“The Polish tradition that we identify with has nothing to do with anti-Semitism, we are far from it, and have nothing to do with racism, nothing to do with xenophobia,” Kaczynski said.

He also said the racist slogans could have been a “provocation” by “those who want to harm Poland”, without specifying who he had in mind.

The PiS leader himself campaigned on a staunchly anti-refugee platform in 2015, claiming that refugees were bringing “cholera to the Greek islands, dysentery to Vienna, various types of parasites” — comments that critics at the time slammed as racist.  —  AFP

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