December 12, 2017
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Thousands of nationalists and fascists are expected to flock to Warsaw on Saturday to attend an annual “Independence March” under the banner: “We Want God”.

The rally, which is scheduled to begin at 3pm (14:00 GMT) local time, coincides with Poland’s independence day on November 11.

Richard Spencer, a well-known American white supremacist, had been slated to attend, but is no longer on the agenda.

It was unclear whether the Polish government blocked his attendance, but Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski warned on Friday that the self-described “white Zionist” should not appear publicly in the eastern European country, especially given his views on the Holocaust. Spencer has previously been accused of anti-Semitism.

According to Independence March organisers, the event is the biggest patriotic gathering of its kind in Europe. 

The far-right All Polish Youth and National Radical Camp groups said the rally focuses on “the vision after the collapse of the West, that is, the old world in the post-European Union era … social and economic changes and the shock of the future”.

Having launched as a smaller gathering in 2009, it now draws tens of thousands of supporters, including many from neighbouring countries. 

Since 2009, a group of sympathisers known as the march guard provides security.

Many of the attendees are young nationalists, who protest against Islam and the EU.

The rally’s popularity demonstrates the deepening divisions within the Poland’s divided society.

The slogan “We Want God” aims to remind that Poland is still the bastion of faith and religiosity in Europe, organisers have claimed.

The chairman of the Independence March association, Robert Bakiewicz, said during a recent press conference that the protesters want to confront atheist Europe and respond to the “invasion of immigrants”.

“We are recalling the fighting church, which for centuries was the keystone and fundament of Europe”, he said. “We want to show Catholicism not as a faith of weakness, but as a faith of strong people”.

Beata Szydlo, current prime minister, leads the right-wing populist Law and Justice party. On Thursday, she told a conference in Warsaw that Poland was “in favour of an EU where Christian traditions are not censorship”. 

Poland has refused to take in refugees, with officials claiming that people of Muslim background are a threat to security. Fewer than 1 percent of the Polish population is Muslim.

The Independence March often ends in clashes between protesters and police, but the level of violence has fallen over the past two years, perhaps as a result of the Law and Justice’s election victory. In a statement on its website, organsiers said protesters were banned from marching under the influence of alcohol as they warned people to “behave appropriately”.

With reporting by Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska in Warsaw: @Aga_Pik





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