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Rival marches bring Warsaw to a halt

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By Catherine Hardy  with Polish Radio, AFP, BBC
Rival marches bring Warsaw to a halt

Two rival protest marches have brought tens of thousands of people onto the snowy streets of Warsaw.

50,000 people were expected to turn out for a nationalist march in Warsaw, under the banner “Poland, the bastion of Europe”.

7,000 police were deployed.

The marches were timed to coincide with Poland’s Independence Day.

The “Independence March”

Demonstrators say, in the end, the nationalist “Independence March” drew 100,000 people.

The police say the number was nearer 75,000.

The “Democracy March”

Officials say 10,000 people turned out for the rival “Democracy March” in the Polish capital.

The route of both marches was organised to prevent them clashing in the streets.

There have been no reports of clashes.

President calls for harmony

Polish President Andrzej Duda called for harmony.

“Harmonious celebrations will be a sign that we, as a nation, can rise above unnecessary divides and disputes,” Duda said.

Have there been problems in the past?


In recent years, the Independence March on 11 November has often ended with outbreaks of violence and clashes with the police.

What happened last year?

Around 70,000 people took part in the nationalist rally in Warsaw.

It was held under the banner, “Poland for the Poles, Poles for Poland”, in reference to the refugee crisis.

History remembered

National Independence Day is marked in Poland on 11 November.

This is the date the country regained its independence in 1918, after 123 years of partition by the Russian empire, the kingdom of Prussia and the Habsburg empire.

A concert of patriotic Polish songs was due to take place at the Warsaw Uprising Museum in the evening.

Huge Catholic shrine

The day has also been marked with the opening of a huge Catholic shrine, first proposed more than 200 years ago.

The first stone of the Temple of Divine Providence was laid in 1792.

Progress was stalled, however, by invasions and world wars.

Work resumed in 2003 with 50 million euros in private donations.