Protesting at the presidential palace, Lithuania’s ethnic Poles are outraged at a new language law they say will leave them bottom of the class.
It means ethnic minority schools will have to teach more subjects in Lithuanian. Currently, most learning in Lithuania’s Polish schools is in Polish.
The fear is that switching languages will put the ethnic Polish community at a disadvantage.
“We have gathered here to show that Lithuanian authorities have made a mistake, that we now have more difficult conditions for our study,” said protester Dariusz Staczkevicz, a student in Vilnius.
Authorities argue the changes will help minorities integrate. Concessions have been made, they say, but school boycotts or strikes will not be tolerated.
Lithuanian Education Minister Gintaras Steponavicius said: “That protests are being expressed publicly is normal for democratic society, but, on the other hand, we will not tolerate that schools would be involved by inviting parents and kids not to attend classes.”
Ethnic Poles are the largest minority in Lithuania. Warsaw has long complained about their treatment and says it will raise the schools matter with Vilnius.