WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Thousands of flag-waving Polish nationalists marched through Warsaw on Wednesday with an anti-migrant message as they marked Independence Day. The event took place peacefully in contrast to violence that has marked the holiday in past years.
The march was organized by several radical far-right organizations under the slogan “Poland for Poles. Poles for Poland,” an allusion to an infamous anti-Semitic slogan from before World War II.
“Stop the Islamization of Poland,” read one banner.
Poland’s outgoing centrist government has agreed to accept about 7,000 refugees from Syria and Eritrea, a plan that is unpopular with many Poles. Amid that atmosphere the right-wing and anti-migrant Law and Justice party won an election on Oct. 25. A new government will be sworn in within days.
The large crowd, which included some wearing masks, marched amid rising smoke from red flares. Authorities estimated the crowd at around 35,000 and said a few people were arrested for having flares and other pyrotechnic materials, which are banned. There was a huge police presence throughout central Warsaw following clashes on the holiday in past years.
The day celebrates Poland regaining its independence following World War I after being wiped off the map for 123 years.
Earlier, President Andrzej Duda presided over state celebrations.