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    Polish Independence Day March Perseveres Despite Initial Ban

    Poland will celebrate the 100th anniversary of regaining independence on November 11th. Just as in previous years, conservative and nationalist organizations have been busy recently planning the Independence Day March. However, at a press conference on Wednesday, Warsaw’s outgoing mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz announced that the march will not go ahead. She stated that it is a threat to public security and argued that neo-fascist slogans and banners have been present at previous marches.On Thursday, a regional court overturned her decision, confirming that the people participating in the march have freedom of assembly guaranteed by the constitution.

    However, it was a highly eventful period in the 24 hours before the court decided to overturn the Mayor’s decision.  The same evening Mayor Gronkiewicz-Waltz announced her intention to ban the march, President Andrzej Duda and met with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to discuss how the situation could be resolved. They both agreed that banning a march expected to draw a crowd of up to 100 000 people in such short notice, would be a bigger threat to public security than letting it take place as planned. They therefore came up with a solution of their own, by together hosting a march organized by the state and welcoming people from all political camps and walks of life under the condition that they agree to march only under the Polish red-and-white flag without bringing their own party banners.

    The march received more negative international press than ever before in 2017 after an article written by Vanessa Gera from the Associated Press, describing the event as a racist far-right march, was reprinted by newspapers across the world. There was another example of fake news in an article written by Drew Hinshaw, which incorrectly stated that a banner reading “pray for an Islamic holocaust” was used by the participants of the march. It was later revealed that the banner in question had been hung over a bridge in a different city and years before the March of Independence. What was true however, was that a new group calling themselves “The Black Block” had joined the march for the first time. Dressed in all black, with mostly covered faces, the group consisted of about 150 people, who joined the march half-way through. The Black Block is an alliance of miniscule organizations, compromising of what can fairly be described as far-right extremists. They carried with them banners calling for “a white Europe” and “pure blood”. However, comparing their numbers to the almost 100 000 ordinary people attending the march, it’s fair to say that the characterization of the entire march by the international mainstream media through the lens of the Black Block was more than dishonest.

    Late last night after long negotiations, the organizers of the Independence Day March reached an agreement with the Prime Minister’s office regarding a joint march for the 100th anniversary of Poland regaining its independence. Participants of the march will listen to a speech given by President Andrzej Duda at 3PM on the Dmowski roundabout before setting off on a march which will take them across the Vistula river to grounds in front the National Stadium.
    As the Polish Army will be the official organizer of the march, a column of Rosomak armoured personnel carriers will head the march followed by the Army’s Guard of Honor, military veterans, military reenactment groups and the Prime Minister and President. The slogan chosen for this year’s march is one of Poland’s centuries old unofficial mottos “God, Honor, Fatherland”.

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