Police say an estimated 60,000 demonstrators took to the streets of Warsaw in a march organized by far-right nationalists on Poland Independence Day, The Guardian reports.
The November 10 holiday, which marked the country regaining its independence in 1918 following World War I, was overwhelmed by nationalists armed with flares and making anti-Semitic and Islamophobic declarations. According to The Guardian, the marchers were mostly young males, many of whom waved Polish flags as well as banners featuring far-right symbols and xenophobic slogans calling for a "white Europe" free from refugees.
One banner, CNN reports, read "Pray for an Islamic Holocaust." Demonstrators also reportedly chanted statements like “pure Poland, white Poland” and "death to enemies of the homeland."
The New York Times also noted the number of banners decrying Islam, abortion, and same-sex marriage. Many nationalists in the predominantly Catholic country reportedly carried Christian iconography while speakers spoke of upholding Christian values. One slogan, "We Want God," referenced a traditional Polish nationalist song which President Donald Trump quoted during his visit to Warsaw in July.
Anti-fascist demonstrators also joined forces yesterday as a counter-protest to the nationalist march. The Guardian noted one incident in which nationalist demonstrators reported kicked women belonging to the anti-fascist protest.
According to Radio Poland, however, Polish officials are downplaying yesterday's events, writing it off as a display of patriotism rather than evidence of extremism.
"Independence Day... was safe," Interior Minister Mariusz Błaszczak said. "We could see white and red [the colors of the Polish flag] in the streets of Warsaw; it was a beautiful sight. We are proud that so many Poles decided to take part in [the] events."
It's not the first time Poland Independence Day has been disrupted by the far right. Last year a similar protest drew 75,000 marchers, according to police estimates, though organizers put the number as being closer to 100,000.