Nationalists marched in Warsaw as Poles celebrate Independence Day

Tens of thousands of nationalists marched in a demonstration organized by far-right groups in Warsaw Saturday, as Poles celebrated their country’s Independence Day.

The far-right march was one of many events marking Poland’s rebirth as a nation in 1918 after being wiped off the map for 123 years. Earlier in the day, President Andrzej Duda presided over state ceremonies also attended by European Union president Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister.

But the march has become the largest Independence Day event in recent years, overshadowing official state observances and other patriotic events. Some participants expressed sympathy for xenophobic or white supremacist ideas, with one banner reading, “White Europe of brotherly nations.” A participant who was interviewed on state television station TVP said he was taking part “to remove Jewry from power.”

Participants marched under the slogan “We Want God,” words from an old Polish religious song that President Donald Trump quoted from during a visit to Warsaw earlier this year. Speakers spoke of standing against liberals and defending Christian values.

Many carried the national white-and-red flag as others set off flares and firecrackers, filling the air with red smoke. Some also carried banners depicting a falanga, a far-right symbol dating to the 1930s.

Police estimated that 60,000 people took part.

The march has become one of the largest such demonstration in Europe, and on Saturday it drew far-right leaders from elsewhere in Europe, including Tommy Robinson from Britain and Roberto Fiore from Italy.

While the conservative ruling party was not involved in the march, TVP, the state broadcaster, called the event a “great march of patriots.”

A smaller counter-protest by an anti-fascist movement also took place. Organizers were keeping the two groups apart to prevent violence.

Independence Day marks Poland regaining its sovereignty at the end of World War I after being partitioned and ruled since the late 18th century by Russia, Prussia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Duda oversaw ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, walking past a military guard before the raising of the flags and cannon salutes. After delivering a speech he took part in a wreath-laying ceremony, praying and crossing himself at the monument to all unknown soldiers killed fighting for the country.

Tusk, who attended at Duda’s invitation, also paid his respects at the monument.

Ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski noted that Poland has not always been fully independent since 1918, a reference to Germany’s occupation during World War II and the decades spent under Moscow’s direction during the Cold War.

Still, he said: “The Polish state was internationally recognized the whole time and that is a great achievement.” (AP)

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Nationalists marched in Warsaw as Poles celebrate Independence Day

Demonstrators burn flares and wave Polish flags during the annual march to commemorate Poland’s National Independence Day in Warsaw, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. Thousands of nationalists marched in Warsaw on Poland’s Independence Day holiday, taking part in an event that was organized by far-right groups. (Photo: Czarek Sokolowski/AP)

Nationalists marched in Warsaw as Poles celebrate Independence Day

Polish march to commemorate Poland’s National Independence Day in Warsaw Warsaw, Poland, Nov. 11, 2017. (Photo: Krystian Dobuszynski/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Nationalists marched in Warsaw as Poles celebrate Independence Day

Man holds big Polish flag during Independence March in Warsaw, Poland on Nov. 11, 2017. (Photo: Maciej Luczniewski/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Nationalists marched in Warsaw as Poles celebrate Independence Day

Demonstrators burn flares and wave Polish flags during the annual march to commemorate Poland’s National Independence Day in Warsaw on Nov. 11, 2017. (Photo: Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images)

Nationalists marched in Warsaw as Poles celebrate Independence Day

Demonstrators burn flares and wave Polish flags during the annual march to commemorate Poland’s National Independence Day in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. (Photo: Czarek Sokolowski/AP)

Nationalists marched in Warsaw as Poles celebrate Independence Day

Demonstrators burn flares and wave Polish flags during the annual march to commemorate Poland’s National Independence Day in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. (Photo: Czarek Sokolowski/AP)

Nationalists marched in Warsaw as Poles celebrate Independence Day

Protesters carry Polish flags and banner during a rally, organised by far-right, nationalist groups, to mark 99th anniversary of Polish independence in Warsaw, Poland, Nov. 11, 2017. (Photo: Agencja Gazeta/Adam Stepien via Reuters)

Nationalists marched in Warsaw as Poles celebrate Independence Day

Protesters march during a rally, organised by far-right, nationalist groups, to mark 99th anniversary of Polish independence in Warsaw, Poland, Nov. 11, 2017. (Photo: Agencja Gazeta/Franciszek Mazur via Reuters)

Nationalists marched in Warsaw as Poles celebrate Independence Day

Demonstrators burn flares and wave Polish flags during the annual march to commemorate Poland’s National Independence Day in Warsaw on Nov. 11, 2017. (Photo: Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images)

Nationalists marched in Warsaw as Poles celebrate Independence Day

Supporters of the anti-fascist coalition march through the downtown marking Poland’s Independence Day, in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. (Photo: Alik Keplicz/AP)

Nationalists marched in Warsaw as Poles celebrate Independence Day

Demonstrators burn flares and wave Polish flags during the annual march to commemorate Poland’s National Independence Day in Warsaw on Nov. 11, 2017. (Photo: Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images)

Nationalists marched in Warsaw as Poles celebrate Independence Day

Krakow celebrates Polish Independence Day and the 99th anniversary of the restoration of Poland’s sovereignty as the Second Polish Republic in 1918, on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, Wawl Castle, Krakow, Poland. (Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Nationalists marched in Warsaw as Poles celebrate Independence Day

Supporters of the anti-fascist coalition march marking Poland’s Independence Day, in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. (Photo: Alik Keplicz/AP)

Nationalists marched in Warsaw as Poles celebrate Independence Day

Krakow celebrates Polish Independence Day and the 99th anniversary of the restoration of Poland’s sovereignty as the Second Polish Republic in 1918, on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, Wawl Castle, Krakow, Poland. (Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Nationalists marched in Warsaw as Poles celebrate Independence Day

Protesters light flares and carry Polish flags during a rally, organised by far-right, nationalist groups, to mark 99th anniversary of Polish independence in Warsaw, Poland Nov. 11, 2017. (Photo: Agencja Gazeta/Agata Grzybowska via Reuters)

Nationalists marched in Warsaw as Poles celebrate Independence Day

Polish Army soldiers attends the official ceremony marking Poland’s Independence Day, in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. (Photo: Alik Keplicz/AP)

Nationalists marched in Warsaw as Poles celebrate Independence Day

Former Polish Prime Minister and European Council President Donald Tusk lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw during ceremonies of Poland’s Independence Day on Nov. 11, 2017. (Photo: Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images)

Nationalists marched in Warsaw as Poles celebrate Independence Day

The official celebrations of Polish Independence Day takes place in Krakow’s Matejko Square. Poland celebrates the 99th anniversary of the restoration of Poland’s sovereignty as the Second Polish Republic in 1918 on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. (Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Nationalists marched in Warsaw as Poles celebrate Independence Day

President of Poland, Andrzej Duda (C) and his wife Agata Duda (C-R) attend the official celebrations of the 99th Anniversay of Independence of Poland at the Tomb of Unknown Soldiers, Warsaw, Poland on Nov. 11, 2017. (Photo: Omar Marques/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

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