Wednesday's march, to mark the 74th anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising, the largest armed rebellion against Nazi Germans during WWII, had been expected to march through the streets of the Polish capital to the Castle Square in the Old Town district.
Interior Minister Joachim Brudziński, a senior figure in the ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, said on Twitter that police informed him that Warsaw’s mayor stopped the march before it was due to finish “because of one participant's T-shirt, which had a hammer and sickle,” the symbol of the communist former Soviet Union.
Brudziński added that “according to Polish police, there was no reason to stop the gathering”.
Patryk Jaki, the PiS party’s candidate for mayor of Warsaw in elections which will be held later this year, said City Hall’s decision to stop the march was “maybe an attempt to pick a fight in Warsaw”.
A spokesman for Warsaw’s police department, Mariusz Mrozek, said City Hall had claimed to have seen on video surveillance people who may have been using “symbols clearly associated with neofascist organisations” on flyers which they were handing out.
Polish law bans symbols which promote totalitarian regimes or which clearly incite hate based on race or religion, Mrozek said.
Warsaw City Hall on Twitter said the march was stopped because of “flags and T-shirts of the participants with symbols which referred to organisations which propagate totalitarian regimes”.
Ewa Gawor, an official from City Hall’s security and crisis management office, said the way marches dressed and arranged themselves “directly referred” to the German Nazi party and the so-called Blackshirts, Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini’s voluntary militia.
She said some people at the Warsaw march wore black shirts with armbands and brandished slogans "which incited hate."
Rafał Trzaskowski, a candidate for Warsaw mayor backed by Polish opposition parties Modern and Civic Platform, said the city needed a “zero tolerance” policy towards racism and symbols of totalitarianism.
Paweł Rabiej, who is running for deputy mayor alongside Trzaskowski, said “we should not allow” the ONR to march in Warsaw--not just on the anniversary of the start of the Warsaw uprising, “but on any day”.
Officials at Warsaw City Hall have also cited "pyrotechnics" as the reason behind the decision to stop the march. A number of people lit flares on Wednesday.
Marchers in Warsaw on Wednesday. Photo: PAP/Paweł Supernak
The march was stopped by a police cordon halfway along its planned route.
But marchers gathered a second time at their planned destination in Warsaw's Old Town. (vb/pk)
Source: PAP, IAR