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article imageWarsaw mayor bans far-right march for Poland's centenary

By AFP     Nov 7, 2018 in World

Warsaw's mayor on Wednesday prohibited a march planned this weekend by far-right groups to mark Poland's independence day centenary, but organisers vowed to defy the ban.

Last year's event drew international outrage and condemnation after some of its participants shouted xenophobic slogans like "Pure Poland, white Poland" and "Refugees get out".

The annual march is organised in part by the National Radical Camp (ONR), a group with roots that stretch back to a pre-World War II anti-semitic movement.

Outgoing Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz told reporters in Warsaw on Wednesday she had not received assurances from the interior ministry regarding a police presence to guarantee the event's security this Sunday.

Gronkiewicz-Waltz, a member of the Civic Platform PO opposition party, said she had written to Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro twice regarding the ONR delegation.

"First of all security" is a concern, she said, adding that "Warsaw has suffered enough due to aggressive nationalism", referring to Nazi Germany's attacks that nearly wiped the Polish capital off the map during World War II.

"I believe, with all responsibility, that this should not be the way to mark one century of the independence of the Polish state, hence my decision to ban the march," Gronkiewicz-Waltz said.

The march organisers have 24-hours to launch an appeal against the ban in court but a spokesman vowed to defy the ban, labelling it "reprehensible, shameful and... arrogant."

"The Independence March will take place anyway, regardless of what Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz claims," organiser Mateusz Marzoch told the Polish PAP news agency.

- Tensions with EU -

Before the ban, organisers said they had expect between 100,000-250,000 participants.

First launched on a small scale in 2009, the march drew around 60,000 participants last year. While many denied membership of or sympathy for extreme right groups, the event also drew representatives of far-right parties from Britain, Hungary, Italy and Slovakia.

President Andrzej Duda and government members of Poland's right-wing Law and Justice or PiS party pulled out of the march after government officials failed to convince the rally organisers to carry only Polish flags this year in a bid to prevent any racist overtones.

Duda and his allied PiS leaders later on Wednesday called a meeting on the ban.

Since winning office in 2015, the right-wing government has put Poland on a collision course with the European Union by introducing a string of controversial judicial reforms that Brussels has warned pose a threat to judicial independence, the rule of law and ultimately to democracy.

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