Polish authorities must ensure that Sunday’s Marches of Independence are not disrupted by violent groups and that all demonstrators and members of the public are effectively protected, said Amnesty International ahead of marches marking the centenary of Poland’s independence.
It is feared that the independence marches, set to go ahead in cities across the country including in Warsaw following the overturning of a ban by the city’s mayor, could turn violent with peaceful counter demonstrators targeted, as happened last year.
Polish security forces must not repeat the mistakes of last year, which saw violence on the streets of Warsaw
“Polish security forces must not repeat the mistakes of last year, which saw violence on the streets of Warsaw, including an attack on 14 peaceful female counter-protesters,” said Barbora Černušáková, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Poland.
Authorities policing the march must provide protection to all protesters – including those peacefully protesting against the rising tide of xenophobia and racism in the country
“Those taking to the streets of Warsaw must be allowed to freely exercise their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. It is vital that the authorities policing the march conduct themselves impartially, providing protection to all protesters – including those peacefully protesting against the rising tide of xenophobia and racism in the country.”
Amnesty International monitored the Independence March in 2017. Chants and placards included concerning messages such as “Death to the enemies of the Fatherland!”, “All different, all white” and “On the trees instead of leaves will be hanging communists”.
In 2017, counter demonstrators who peacefully protested in Warsaw were targeted by police with more than 40 facing charges for interfering with a lawful assembly. Fourteen women activists who held a banner saying “Stop fascism” were assaulted by Independence Day marchers. Rather than arresting suspected perpetrators of the assault, the police charged the women who had been assaulted.