Polish police clash with protesters on national holiday

Sun Nov 11, 2012 12:49pm EST
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By Marcin Goettig and Rob Strybel

WARSAW (Reuters) - Riot police in the Polish capital used truncheons and rubber bullets on Sunday to break up a crowd of right-wing extremists who pelted them with firecrackers and lumps of concrete at a parade to mark the national holiday.

Thousands of police in riot gear had earlier lined the streets of Warsaw to try to stop right-wing nationalists and radical left-wing groups from using the independence day holiday as an opportunity to fight each other.

It was the second year the celebrations have degenerated into violence, underlining the deep gulf between those who want a conservative, religious society that rejects foreign influence and those who want Poland to join the European mainstream.

As demonstrators gathered for a right-wing independence day rally, young men with their faces covered by scarves chanted nationalist slogans and railed against supposed Jewish conspiracies.

"We are Poles, that is why we came here. Poland is going in ... the direction of dependency, energy dependency, economic dependency," said a demonstrator who gave his name as Wojciech.

The fighting started when some of the right-wing protesters threw firecrackers and projectiles at police in riot gear who had cordoned off the area.

A Reuters correspondent saw police respond by beating protesters with truncheons. Some demonstrators tore off chunks of concrete at a construction site to use as missiles. Police said they had also used rubber bullets. A spokesman said two police were injured, including one who was hit on the head with a bottle.

"Some people mixed into the head of the march and .... attacked police with stones, bottles and flares. We responded with rubber bullets and pepper gas," the spokesman, Mariusz Sokolowski, told Polish television.   Continued...

Riot police confronts demonstrators as violence breaks out at a parade celebrating Poland's national holiday in Warsaw November 11, 2012. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel