Warsaw: Independence March 2012
by Green Infidel
Another year, another Independence Day, another day of “fascist” violence and/or police provocations, as well as media manipulation.
Thus can the events of this year’s independence day in Poland, on 11 November, be summarised. While Britain was solemnly giving respect to its war dead with two minutes of silence and by laying wreaths of poppies at monuments (apart from the small number of teenagers trying to “act cool” by joining Islamists in burning them), and other countries had their own independence days marking the day of the armistice in 1918 — which, together with the Treaty of Versailles, redrew the maps of Europe — Poland celebrated its Independence Day, once again, in its own unique fashion.
In Warsaw, the event involved a host of ceremonies, marches, as well as an “Independence Run” of 10km through the streets of Warsaw (with the contestants wearing either white or red T-shirts to make a giant Polish flag visible from the air). The biggest event, however, was the Independence March, described by the media as “fascist”. This proved also to be the most eventful — and not for good reasons.
But first, a little background on the event in Warsaw:
The admittedly far-right “National-radical camp” (Oboz Narodowo-Radykalny, ONR) and all-Polish youth (Mlodziez Wszechpolska, MW) have for years organised a march through Warsaw to honour the day of independence. In the past, these contained some unabashedly questionable slogans against Jews and other minorities. The (far smaller) anti-fascist camp in retaliation held “blockades” of the march, in the tradition of “anti-fascist” blockades in Germany and other countries. In recent years however, such extreme rhetoric had ceased to be the case, and the march organising committee had successfully drawn members from a wide spectrum of folk groups, war veterans, right-wing publicists and, for some time, even a popular pop singer. Large numbers of football fans, having a grudge against the government over a clampdown — after they had openly criticised government actions — also started to join.
In retaliation, and perhaps as a sign of their increasing desperation, the “anti-fascists” invited members of the German Antifa to join the blockade in 2011. Word started spreading in Poland about the reputation of Antifa units, while people were incensed to hear that German youths were coming to Warsaw to “counter fascism” by blockading a march in the city, in which many war veterans from the Warsaw Rising against the Nazis also took part. Hence the 2011 march was the biggest yet, with a target of 11,000, but with an estimated 20,000-30,000 attending. It also resulted in violent confrontations with police and the leftist blockade. It was suggested that those instigating violence with police were themselves police provocateurs (a tactic used during Communist days) — in one video, a cameraman being “attacked” by someone in the march, wearing a white balaclava, was pictured a few minutes later calmly talking to others wearing similar white balaclavas, who had been at the forefront of the violence against police a few minutes later. Nonetheless — provocation, or no provocation — the effect was that media had, almost exclusively, focused on the small sections of the march causing violence, while totally ignoring the thousands marching peacefully.
This year’s march followed a number of other recent marches, mostly organised by the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) opposition, and drawing up to 100,000 people. So it was expected that this year’s Independence March would also dwarf its predecessor the year before. And it did… In addition to the previously mentioned National-Radical Camp and All-Polish Youth, clubs from the newspaper Gazeta Polska (most famous for being virulently anti-government, and for meticulously investigating the 2010 Smolensk Disaster for signs that it was deliberately caused by the Russian government) also took part, bringing over 10,000 members onto the streets. As I had many other events on my mind, I was not set on going to this year’s march, however the night before the march I had attended a “patriotic song” event, at which most were Gazeta Polska readers, and were going to the march. Recalling last year’s events, I decided to join this year’s march with my girlfriend and other friends whom I arranged to meet there.
We went to the section with the Gazeta Polska readers, where there were many banners and slogans highlighting the Smolensk disaster, as well as highly against Prime Minister Tusk (“Take Tusk — give us the black boxes!” being a memorable one), in addition to patriotic songs being sung and more reliable chants, such as “God, Honour, Fatherland” — a slogan of Polish soldiers during World War II). However, we were stuck in the section in front of the Palace of Culture unable to march, as police had, predictably, stopped the march from going ahead. This was due to pitched battles with police that were being held. As it turned out, at the forefront of these were “marchers” wearing olive balaclavas. Later, units of such marchers were filmed marching with police. (a collection of photos of these provocateurs may be seen here).
For one hour we were unable to march, blocked in by police; however, then the march proceeded. Strangely, all media were grouped around the starting place of the march in front of the Palace of Culture — where the riots took place. Later in the march, when the procession was taking place peacefully, we only encountered Trwam Television (a niche Catholic TV station opposed to the government). No other TV stations were present. On we went, the group chanting anti-government slogans such as “Rzad pod sad” — “government in front of the courts”, and also encouraging police to “drop their batons, and join”.
Later, perhaps ominously, I had seen a large group of riot police. But behind them, also a column of plain-clothes police agents wearing olive balaclavas. Very similar to the olive balaclava worn by the stone-thrower at 2:34 in the film here. In the background, there are even chants of “police provocation”!
And there were many other eyewitness accounts of masked men appearing from behind police lines, to throw stones at the uniformed police… To which the police responded with tear gas, rubber bullets, and brutal force. Even against 60-year-olds, and young children.
Naturally, the media only showed the violence — yet again, without a minute of footage from the march. In reality, for the vast majority of the people there, and for the vast majority of the time, this was what the march looked like this. It’s a 27-minute film from the offices of Fronda.pl — a right-wing Catholic publication and popular internet site whose offices happened to be situated above one of the avenues that the march took place on. Gazeta Wyborcza, the largest-selling (and reliably left/liberal) newspaper, had said that there were 20,000 people in the march. From the video above, one may judge for himself how true this was.
The same paper claimed that 15,000 had attended the “rival” president’s march. However, from photos of the march, one blogger who took the trouble to count found only 500 had attended. Other media estimated around 2,000-4,000.
In the days after the march however, even Gazeta Wyborcza posted articles lamenting the “scary” size of the Independence March.
The title: “Only a handful of anti-fascists. This disproportion is scary!”
At the end of the march, the leader of the national-radicals said that they wanted to “overthrow” the post-1989 system (composed, to a large part, of ex-communist agents) and to “scare leftists”, and had intended to set up “self-defence groups”, for the purposes of “defending future marches”. The media reliably stirred up a storm, claiming that the march organisers were inciting to violence. The Democratic Left Alliance reacted by calling for the National-Radical Camp to be banned. Given how they themselves are the direct successors of the Polish Communist government, this could be seen as ironic, or even hypocritical, but it can also serve an accurate summary of the hypocrisy and double-standards evident in much of Polish public life and the media today.
Previous posts about the Warsaw Independence March:
|2012||Oct||8||Independence March in Warsaw|
|10||The Story Behind the Independence March in Warsaw|
|Nov||11||“I Saw a Nazi”|
|12||Warsaw: Independence March 2012|