Right-wing nationalists march on Poland's independence day

European Union Fractured Over Christian Rights

The march, in Warsaw, saw some supporters chanting "clean blood", "pure Poland" and "white Poland", The Guardian reports.

Police said the eighth annual independence day rally from the far-right National Radical Camp drew an estimated 60,000 people - a staggering spike for an event that used to draw only a few hundred people after starting in 2009.

As most other European countries commemorated Armistice Day to mark the end of World War I in 1918, Poles celebrated national rebirth.

Numerous marchers were young men, some with their faces covered or with beer bottles in hand, throwing red smoke bombs. Many were young men, some with their faces covered or with beer bottles in hand, but families and older Poles also participated.

Far-right leaders from other European countries also took part: among them were Tommy Robinson from Britain and Roberto Fiore from Italy.

Speakers spread messages about "standing against liberals" and "defending Christian values" during the march.

"It was a attractive sight", Mariusz Błaszczak, Poland's interior minister, said. Organizers ensured the two groups remained apart to prevent violence.

Demonstrators carried banners that read "White Europe, Europe must be white", and "Pray for an Islamic Holocaust".

The slogan for this year's event was "We Want God", in line with emotional themes of the past rallies.

But main march participant Kamil Staszalek warned against making generalisations and said he was marching to "honour the memory of those who fought for Poland's freedom". "It's 50 to 100,000 mostly football hooligans hijacking patriotism", said 50-year-old Briton Andy Eddles, a language teacher who has been living in Poland for 27 years.

In previous years, there were violent clashes between the marchers and anti-fascist demonstrators but this year thousands of police sealed off the streets, as well as the central Warsaw Poniatowski Bridge, and there was no contact with any protesters against the march. "For me it's important to support the anti-fascist coalition and to support fellow democrats, who are under pressure in Poland today".

European Council President Donald Tusk, who is a former Polish prime minister and a political opponent of the current Warsaw government, was in Poland for Independence Day celebrations.

It is now the largest independence day event in Poland and one of the biggest nationalist marches anywhere in Europe.

'No politician in Poland has ever had nor will ever have a monopoly on patriotism'.

Relations between Brussels and Warsaw have worsened in recent months because of the PiS government's controversial court reforms, large-scale logging in a primeval forest and refusal to welcome migrants.

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