Demonstrators taunt riot police as violence breaks out at a parade celebrating Poland's national holiday in Warsaw. REUTERS/Peter Andrews
Riot police in the Polish capital used truncheons and rubber
bullets 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 gear had earlier lined the
streets of Warsaw to try to stop right-wing nationalists and
radical left-wing groups from using the independence day
holiday as an opportunity to fight each other.
It was the second year the celebrations have degenerated into
violence, underlining the deep gulf between those who want a
conservative, religious society that rejects foreign
influence and those who want Poland to join the European
As demonstrators gathered for a right-wing independence day
rally, young men with their faces covered by scarves chanted
nationalist slogans and railed against supposed Jewish
" We are Poles, that is why we came here. Poland is going in
... the direction of dependency, energy dependency, economic
dependency," said a demonstrator who gave his name as
The fighting started when some of the right-wing protesters
threw firecrackers and projectiles at police in riot gear who
had cordoned off the area.
A Reuters correspondent saw police respond by beating
protesters with truncheons. Some demonstrators tore off
chunks of concrete at a construction site to use as missiles.
Police said they had also used rubber bullets. A spokesman
said two police were injured, including one who was hit on
the head with a bottle.
"Some people mixed into the head of the march and ....
attacked police with stones, bottles and flares. We responded
with rubber bullets and pepper gas," the spokesman, Mariusz
Sokolowski, told Polish television.
Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, addressing the
official independence day parade in Warsaw a few hours before
the violence broke out, appealed for a less polarised
"Today public life is poisoned by excessive rows," he said.
"We should be critical, but criticism should not mean mutual
On the same date last year, right-wing demonstrators fought
pitched battles with police who were trying to prevent them
attacking a counter-demonstration by left-wing radicals.
Poland, the biggest economy in eastern Europe, is
experiencing a period of peace and prosperity unusual for a
country with such a turbulent history.
Prime Minister Donald Tusk, a liberal, is credited by many
Poles for bringing political stability. But the predominantly
Catholic society is deeply split over issues such as
abortion, gay rights and how deeply to integrate with the
Most of the time the argument is conducted in reasonably
civil terms. However, extremists on the margins of each camp
sometimes get violent.